Community unity and patriotic spirit rose to an all-time high for Estacada's 'The Patriot Flag' event on June 3. As a seasoned patriotic event organizer, I have to say that no single event has ever left me feeling this level of pride; I was absolutely humbled to the core.
I can't take all the credit for this successful event. It all came together due to God and his divine love for America and her people. It was no accident that I met Wayne Louth, Mitch Mendler and retired New York City firefighter Lt. Joe Torrillo on Facebook and they, in turn, offered us this special opportunity of bringing the flag to Estacada.
It takes connecting many intricate pieces together to put on a large event such as 'The Patriot Flag' event. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the day was filled with smiles, laughter, excitement and good old-fashioned neighborhood unity.
The awesome people of the Clackamas Fire Department quickly responded to my request for the ladder truck from which to fly 'The Patriot Flag.' Upon learning the significance of 'The Patriot Flag,' honoring all the 9/11 victims, they did not hesitate for a single second; in fact they stepped up and volunteered the Clackamas Fire Pipes and Drums for the procession and ceremony.
Lt. Torrillo rearranged his schedule so that he could join us. I sent out an email asking for assistance in bringing Joe to Estacada. God is so awesome, as he provided the means to cover all of Joe's travel expenses within five minutes of the email being sent out.
The Estacada School District jumped on board and encouraged all district principals to participate in this educational and patriotic opportunity for their students. John Valasquez and Mary Sagara worked diligently with over 1,000 kids for weeks to practice singing the national anthem. Hats off to the principals of the Estacada School District for placing high priority on participating in this once-in-a-lifetime, historical event.
The city of Estacada supported this event to help make it possible - special thanks to Mayor Becky Arnold, Melanie Wagner and the city councilors.
The procession and ceremony shone from the seams with patriotism. Thank you to the Patriot Guard Riders, all vehicles representing the Oregon Military Department, several different law enforcement agencies and surrounding fire departments.
Several local businesses and City Hall closed for this important ceremony so that they and their employees would not miss this moment in Estacada history.
Harmony Baking Company, Estacada Liquor Store, Subway, and surrounding businesses helped me successfully pursue the closure of Wade Street for the safety of pedestrians participating in the event. Although it took teamwork and some persistence, all of our needed street closures were granted.
Weston Pontiac provided their sound system and the city's stage for our guests. Todd Felix from Gresham Emergency Management quickly stepped forward and ran traffic for us with the help of the terrific Job Corps Students.
More than 1,000 students from Estacada caught the patriotic spirit and spontaneously and proudly began chanting 'U-S-A!' as they walked the procession route. From the depths of their little hearts, their eyes sparkled with patriotism as they delivered the best rendition of our national anthem that I've ever heard.
The Honor Guard Detail from CCSO and all of our speakers, including Miss Oregon, did an awesome job - thank you. Special thanks to Chris Loid for singing Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the USA' as we raised 'The Patriot Flag.'
Shortly after the flag was raised, a gust of wind caught it and lined it up perfectly, laying it down within the ladder of the truck. I knew in my heart that had significant meaning behind it, but it would not be until the next day when I watched this on video what that meant.
During the past four years, as I have worked to get the spirit of patriotism and civics revived in our community and schools, there have been some pretty discouraging times where I did not know if I was ever going to see things change. When 'The Patriot Flag' became entangled, the firefighters did what firefighters do: They went to the rescue and set her free.
As Americans, we, too, must take action to set the patriotic spirit free when she gets entangled. I have watched the video several times and when the flag was set free, it danced around and swayed in the wind and at one point it actually appeared to gently wrap around the firefighters that set her free and gave them a big hug. Set the patriotic spirit free and amazing things begin to happen as well.
I know, with no uncertainty, that the spirit of patriotism is alive and thriving in Estacada. 'The Patriot Flag' started with a dream and vision and, as it works its way across America, it re-unites us and re-ignites the spirit of patriotism. We will be forever grateful to Lt. Joe Torrillo, Mitch Mendler, and Wayne Louth for allowing us to become part of 'The Patriot Flag' tour.
Thank you to everyone who came together and made this the best event in Estacada history. You made us proud.
Becky Ginsbach is EASOTF event coordinator and 'The Patriot Flag' media liaison.