By Misty Wittman, Personal Banking Officer
Most of us have someone in our lives that we look up to or consider a hero. Sometimes, it is difficult to honor and show them how truly blessed we are to have known them. As we celebrate Veterans Day, it’s important to recognize our military and first responders who have put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
I volunteer with the Laurel Exchange Club. We hold an annual event, Field of Flags in September at South School in Laurel, to honor these individuals. It is a place where they can share their stories and start the healing process of loss or injury. 1,000 six-foot flags flown in a uniform formation will take your breath away. The flags are displayed to honor those heroes in our lives.
The emotions I have about this event are indescribable. I have always supported our military and first responders and have the utmost respect for them. I want to share some of the stories that I have heard on my journey as a volunteer for Field of Flags.
Cecil Westerbur was 93 in 2018 during the first Laurel Exchange Club Healing Field. He was beside himself when he saw the flags flying in the wind and had to come see them. I sat and spoke to Cecil for some time just talking about life. Cecil is a World War II Vet and enlisted in the Military as soon as he could. He said he always knew that he wanted to serve his country. He told me he had tried to enlist when he was 16 and they would not let him. When he was finally able to join, he said he had gone all around the world several times. He had been to every base both internationally and here in the United States.
Bo Reichenbach was a guest speaker at the first annual Healing Field in 2018 . He is a U.S. Navy Seal that was deployed to Afghanistan in January of 2012. He was deployed about 7 months when he was out on patrol and stepped on a IUD. He is now a double amputee. Bo spoke about his struggles and over coming them. He said his family was a huge motivation for him to continue living his life and moving forward.
LT. William Cooper
LT. William Cooper donated his time to come and speak to Laurel grade school kids about what it means to be a hero and educate them about 9/11. LT. Cooper was only 17 when the towers were hit. After the impact that this event had on our country, he knew he wanted to join the military. He has been serving our country ever since.
Chris Grudzinski was another one of our speakers who enlisted in the military and had been injured when he was deployed. He and his wife founded Montana Veterans Meat Locker, a non-profit organization, which provides professionally processed wild and domestic meat for Veterans and their family.
9/11 Crew Member Presents his Patch
At the last Healing Field, a 9/11 crew member came to the field. He presented his patch from New York to the Laurel Exchange Club. The patch had been locked away since 2001. He expressed his gratitude for this event and felt compelled to share a little piece of history. The club framed the patch and will display it at the next Field of Flags.
These are just a few of the stories that make this event so important to me. Heroes come in many different packages, people who serve our country, the first responders and volunteers who are selfless with their time. All heroes in your life are just as important as the next and this event, along with Veterans Day, is a great way to honor all of them.