SEMINOLE, Fla. — Linda Burhans smiled as she watched passersby snap photos of the 2019 Field Of Honor.
This year’s display of American flags is the largest ever.
“When you just see them flying, especially on a day when it’s breezy, it’s just so wonderful,” said Burhans, who has been part of Seminole Kiwanis for 15 years. “It’s so lovely. It’s so lovely.”
In 2015, the first time the Seminole Kiwanis Breakfast Club gathered $35 sponsorships to honor veterans with American flags, only 24 flew in front of the City Hall building. It grew to 176 flags in 2016, then 213, then 305 and, this year, 425 flags line 113th Street.
It’s impossible to miss the patriotism.
“I loved my brother so much and I loved my dad so much. I wanted them honored and, to me, that’s what I’m doing,” said Linda Roth-Grayne as she gazed up at the pair of flags she sponsored this year. “This is huge for me.”
The flags honor her loved ones in a special way. Her father, Lee Grayne, served in WWII in the Army Air Corps. He died on May 1, 2009.
Linda’s older brother, Charles “Chuck” Grayne, died April 8, 2019. Linda was unable to attend his memorial service because of her poor health.
“Very,” she said when asked how difficult it was to miss his service. The flag serves as her farewell to Chuck.
“It’s my gift. I did it on his birthday. I loved my brother very much and at the end, we made up.”
Linda was “anti-war” when her brother joined the Army and went off to Vietnam. Their relationship was strained for a while. When he returned to the United States to little fanfare, that changed things.
“I think that those guys came home and they didn’t get the thank you they deserved,” she said. “They didn’t get anything.”
Linda, who lives in Seminole, kept up from afar as her brother’s health failed in California. He dealt with complications from ALS and required a feeding tube before he died.
Missing his military memorial service was painful.
“I’ll never get to see him again but I’m so proud of him,” she said.
A flag can’t replace a funeral, but it can substitute as a personal goodbye. Like the other 424 flags, Linda’s farewell to Chuck honors an American hero.
“The guys who went to war, they were grown up,” she said. “They knew that they had a responsibility and they took it on. They didn’t try to run.”
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