Keller vets raise flags... and patriotic pride

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on July 4, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 26 at 1:10 AM

KELLER — In one Keller neighborhood, the flags seemed to fly a little higher this Independence Day.

They were raised by veterans who spent weeks drilling and leveling at hundreds of homes, so military precision would generate patriotic pride.

Vernon Drewa puts his back into it because his soul is in it, too. "I can't do as much as I used to do, but I can do more than people expect I can," he said.

A retired Navy Commander, Drewa served his country for 30 years. His adventures took him to the Arctic Circle, Korea, and the Marshall Islands.

He holds on to photos of the good men who were lost along the way.

Still, his chest swells with pride when he sees the red, white and blue lining the streets of his neighborhood.

"You saw the smiles on the children's faces, and they were so proud," Drewa said after a slow tour of his Keller neighborhood.

He planted 228 flags this year with the help of Randy Stillinger. The army helicopter pilot never knew how many veterans lived in his little corner of Keller.

"That's one thing this project has done besides painting the neighborhood red, white and blue,” Stillinger said. “We've gotten to know each other. We've met so many people."

Now, those neighbors are family. They promised to raise the flags next year, when Stillinger leaves his wife and children for another deployment to the Middle East.

"They're also going to be taking care of my family while I am gone, and I can't ask for more than that as a soldier," he said.

Families paraded through the patriotic fanfare throughout the day just to take in the sight of all the flags.

Lana Kruse held on tight to her family photos. They’re reminders of nearly 70 years of military service for her husband, friend, and son. "Lot of memories and hardships and pride,” she recalled. "Just different things... brings a lot of emotion."

Mike McGuire received the final flag on Wednesday morning.

"It seems like we've kind of forgot where we came from, and patriotism seems to be lagging,” McGuire said, recalling a similar sight after September 11, 2001.

The Vietnam vet is now proud to fly the national colors in his own front yard.

He's proud to live in a neighborhood that still cares.

"There's great neighborhoods all over this country," McGuire said.

Three-hundred flags are on order for the next patriotic holiday, but it all started with Vernon Drewa's house. For him, it's just one more mission after a lifetime of service.

He won't call it "work," because it's how he shows his love for the Stars and Stripes.

Drewa held back tears when asked why he loves his country.

"We might not be perfect, but we are darn close, and I wouldn't swap it for anything in the world," he said.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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