When Larry Eckhardt pulled into the Estherville High School parking lot Thursday afternoon with a load of flags, more than 200 people showed up to help put them up, all the way along Central Avenue, up Half Mile Hill.
All 2,280 of them.
It's all in honor, of course, of Staff Sgt. Steve Blass whose life ended far too soon when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed Monday, March 11, claiming him and four other crew members.
The volunteers who showed up Thursday ranged in age from four to about ninety.
The fervent show of patriotism erupted in Estherville yet again to honor the memory of Blass, an Estherville Lincoln Central and Iowa Lakes Community College graduate. We've seen similar displays of patriotism recently, of course, when members of our Guard unit left for duty in both Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Blass made the ultimate sacrifice. His loss is something his family will always feel. The show of support that the Blasses have received, though, will no doubt go far in easing the pain at the loss of their son.
Our citizens will likely continue show their gratitude, this time to the honor guard that will come to Estherville to take Sgt. Blass to his final resting place. Their money will probably won't be any good here. Whatever they want will probably be gratis.
And that's the way it should be.
We should all be glad to live in a community that comes together so strongly in times such as this. The Blass family has told us how grateful they are for the overwhelming show of support.
It's probably also indicative of what it means to be an American. Here, we show our gratitude toward our servicemen and servicewomen for putting themselves at risk so we can live in a free society.
Thank you, Estherville. And thank you, Randy and Carol, Tricia and Hayden. Steve in his own way has shown us all how to be better Americans and better to each other.
And for that, we should all be grateful.