HAWARDEN—On a beautiful July afternoon, Karen and Glen Longhorn from Hawarden drove along Highway 20, stopping for gas in Holstein. Karen, being curious as she is, asked the clerk why the flags were up on a random Wednesday afternoon.
“There was just enough breeze so the flags looked spectacular flying in the sunlight,” Karen explained. “The clerk responded telling me they had ‘Lost one of their own.’”
Seeing Karen’s blank look on her face, the clerk went on to explain a veteran had died and as a town project, several took part to raise and lower the flags in honor of the one that had served. Karen went back in the truck with her husband and suggested the idea of raising the flags for Hawarden’s fallen heroes.
Ever since July of 2014, the flags have been raised to honor veterans being buried at Grace Hill Cemetery.
“It is an honor and a privilege to remember those that have served,” Karen said. “The look of love and appreciation by the family when I deliver the photos of the flying flag and the photo of the digital sign that honors the fallen is why we continue to do it.”
The Longhorns didn’t realize the undertaking this duty would bring.
“When we started this, we never realized how little or large the project was,” said Karen. “We raised/lowered once a month occasionally, then there was months when it was three times. Times funerals have overlapped and the flags were left up.”
The American Legion purchased bags for the flags to be protected. The Longhorns were keeping them in their garage until they “retired” from the holiday raising and lowering.
Today, the flags are housed at the TV Shop. The Longhorns usually get a message about a fallen brother because Glen is a veteran and gets called for military funerals. The couple go and get the flags the day before the service.
“Glen is the early riser, so if he is home, he puts them up — rain, snow or wind doesn’t stop the veteran being honored,” Karen said. “This is always before 8 a.m. and they come down usually around 5 p.m.”
The couple enjoys spending more time together through this service they provide. Karen said the holders on Central Avenue were lowered a couple years ago, to help the process along and now they no longer are having to take a ladder to reach the holders. If a holder is in need of repair or replacement the City of Hawarden takes care of it.
Karen takes the time to notify the church of service to announce to those present to drive down Central and calls the city to be sure they post the information on the city’s digital sign. While the Longhorns feel this is an honor for them, they love the beautiful thank you notes from family and friends of the fallen and the service make the funerals very special.
Honoring the veterans is something the Longhorns do in part because they are proud of their family that has served or are currently serving.
“We are truly blessed with our military family,” Karen said.
Glen is a Vietnam veteran proudly served in the U.S. Army. His military family includes his son David (Air Force), his brother Gary (Army), two grandchildren that serve in the Junior ROTC and going back to the Civil War his great-great grandfather Captain James Longhorn, who lost his arm at the Battle of Chickamauga. Karen’s military family includes her husband, son Derek (Air Force/Army National Guard Recruiter), brothers Charlie (Army), Denny (Navy) and Jeff (Air Force), dad and step-dad (Army), uncles (Army), nephews (Army and Air Force).
“Our local American Legion members provide a very respectful service either at the graveside or at the place of the funeral or memorial service to honor the fallen military person,” said Ric Porter, director of Porter Funeral Home in Hawarden. “Our digital sign, by having the name of the deceased and branch of service, informs everyone of whom we are honoring that day.”
Porter said families who have experienced all of these honors have often expressed their thankfulness to everyone who has honored their family member.
“They find all of the volunteer actions to be a tribute to the deceased and to their family,” said Porter. “It is always thoughtful when we have volunteers and organizations step up to honor those that have passed. When a military person has died, it is always meaningful to have the flags in place on our main street.”