FORTVILLE, Ind. — It’s been nearly a week since 13 U.S. servicemen and women were killed in Afghanistan as the military readied their final departure from the country after 20 years of war.
In the days following this tragedy, communities across the country have found ways to honor the heroes lost – and that’s no different here in Indiana after Logansport’s own Corporal Humberto Sanchez was killed in the Abbey Gate blast.
70 miles southeast of Logansport, the town of Fortville set up their own tribute, 13 flags in as many as 25 locations spread throughout the town. Each flag representing each member lost overseas.
“It’s just our way to let the families know more so than anyone else, that they’re not forgotten. That veterans’ organizations like us, we won’t forget the fallen,” “American Legion Post 391 Commander Ron Patterson said. “It’s truly just cloth and colors… but it’s more of a symbol for what this country is made of what we stand for.”
It’s more than 13 flags or the 13 stripes on each one. It’s 13 lives lost in service. 13 families and their communities grieving the loss of their American heroes.
“It hits very close to home,” VFW Post 6904 Commander Tony Buechler said. “It is a little closer because it’s a Hoosier but to us, it’s all one big family.”
Buechler served his country in Operation Enduring Freedom. He continues to serve his country here at home by remembering fallen brothers and sisters and making the lives of veterans like himself better.
“We do what we can to help each other, to give each other purpose in civilian life,” Buechler said. “It’s just a way that once you’re out of uniform, to get involved in the community and still make a difference.”
With Afghan refugees now seeing asylum in the U.S. hoping to build better lives for themselves and their families, Buechler believes the decades-long struggle was worth it in the end.
“There are mixed feelings across the board but it is – the afghanis and the foreign nationals that assisted us when we were deployed are just as important as our servicemen and women. Them coming here, this is a chance for us to show them what America’s really about. And give them a little bit of assistance get them a leg up,” Buechler said. “I would imagine that it is very hard for a parent to accept that their son or daughter – their sacrifice was worth what they were fighting for… but as somebody that has fought for those freedoms and those rights… I feel that it is very important. It was worth it.”
That’s why the local VFW and American Legion Posts lead by Buechler and Patterson, who served himself in the 82nd Airborne, from 1985 to 1991 as a Gulf War Veteran, have come together to gather supplies for Afghan refugees on their way to Camp Atterbury, 55 miles south of Fortville.
“It’s very important that we bring them here. We show them what America’s about, and we help them get on their feet. They have families. They need a place. They’re starting out fresh. Most of them are coming here with nothing but what’s on their back. There are clothing items. There are food items. There are lots of things that they’re gonna be needing down at Camp Atterbury to take care of all these people that they’re being in and we’ll gather those here,” Buechler said. “I want those refugees to know that we support them as they supported us. We’ll do everything within our power locally to make sure they have everything that they need and that they have an opportunity to live the greatest life living here in America and we’ll do everything we can to help support them,” Patterson added.
Though not a veteran, Jeff Young, Past Regional Vice President of the National Exchange Club, still wears his patriotism on his sleeve.
The flags throughout town were his idea.
“I just want people to stop and really honor those kids that we lost last week,” Young said. “Well, I’ll tell ya I was sitting at the table, and then I saw on the TV that 13 young Americans were killed… my heart sank, and I thought what could we do?”
By placing the flags, he hopes Hoosiers remember the sacrifices made by men & women like Logansport’s own Corporal Humberto Sanchez.
“Anytime you lose a service member it’s sad… not just for the family but it’s sad for all of us. We started this on Tuesday and we’ve already got flags up in 25 locations throughout Hancock County and some in Marion too,” Young said. “I can tell you right now in Logansport, where Corporal Sanchez is going to be laid to rest, they’re doing the same thing.”
Because this is your flag.
“This is my flag,” Young said. “It’s everybody’s flag and it represents the best of the world.”
It will soon be the flag of thousands of Afghan refugees too.