Honor the patriots

Today and throughout the weekend, all across our state, Iowans will come together to place small American flags in the grass along memorial sites and roadways to honor our fallen military heroes. Patriots.

It’s slow work–a minor sacrifice of time and comfort in recognition of the massive sacrifices we can never repay.

By Monday, more than 1,500 flags donated by the families of war veterans will fly in my hometown’s Evergreen Cemetery. Folks will gather to tell stories, give speeches, and share silence in memory of the family and friends who gave everything for our great nation.

With a proud military heritage comes a long history of sacrifice. Red Oak lost more of its sons, per capita, in World War II than any other community in the United States. Most recently, we lost Red Oak native Corporal Daegan William-Tyeler Page, just 23 years old, in the bombing at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan in 2021.

No matter their community or county, Iowans stand in support and gratitude for the families who will never forget the knock at the door, the sound of Taps, the 21 gun salute, or the touch of a folded flag. As a combat veteran who led troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I know the men and women who fought alongside the fallen will never forget, either.

From the Missouri River to the Mississippi River, we recognize that the liberties we so often take for granted in our beautiful state do not come without a price.

Iowa has lost sons and daughters in Iraq, Afghanistan, and conflicts all around the world. Our Korean and World Wars numbers were in the thousands, impacting generations of Iowans.

Every fallen soldier leaves behind a grieving parent, child, sibling, spouse, or friend. Many leave behind all of the above. They are heroes in their own right for continuing the memory of their loved ones and carrying on.

As American flags are thoughtfully placed over the next few days, we have a renewed opportunity to honor the patriots who selflessly laid down their lives to safeguard our freedoms. Their honorable service makes America the greatest, freest nation on earth.

May God bless all of our soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors who never returned home, and the loved ones who will never stop sharing their stories.

Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.


Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.


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