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Flags over Manteca spurs patriotism
Earl Looney of Manteca says the flags help lift the spirits of people who are suffering from the effects of the recession. He is one of those who have lost their jobs last year. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Frank Heideman pointed to the letters etched on the wooden pole of the flag, one of many fluttering in the early morning breeze on Monday.

It read, “Sponsored by St. Dominic’s Hospital.” Four of the thousands of flags displayed around Manteca on Presidents Day bear the names of four members of his family, Heideman proudly said. When the Chamber of Commerce launched the campaign to seek donors for the Flags Over Manteca project, Heideman said they sponsored four flags in honor of his grandson Nicolas who died at age 10 in 2001, his late father-in-law Don Stewart who fought in the European theater during World War II and was honored with four silver stars, Don’s late wife Betty, and their son Marvin who also served in the Army and died in 1998. After serving in World War II, Heideman said his father-in-law led a full and active life in Manteca for which he received many recognition awards. His biographical sketch is on display at the Manteca Historical Museum, Heideman said.

It’s their memory, and others who gave their all for freedom, which touches Heideman’s heart on days like Presidents Day when 2,400-plus American flags wave proudly throughout Manteca.

“It’s a wonderful thing. I’m glad they (Chamber of Commerce and Manteca) did this,” he said.

He was not the only one who felt overwhelmed at the sight of the thousands of red, white and blue that were blowing in the wind around Manteca on Monday.

“They are wonderful” to look at, said Barbara Curry while taking her two Yorkies for their daily walk, past the row of flags in downtown Manteca.

The flags signify the respect that the country has for the many service men and women, especially those who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, she said. One of the American soldiers now in Iraq is her nephew-in-law.

“It makes you feel good that people care” about those serving in the military, Curry said.

Mary McCleary said the flags make her feel “very sentimental because I love the flag.” It also reminds her of her late-husband who fought during World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy.

Earl Looney said having the flags wave proudly around Manteca will help “lift people’s spirits during this time of recession, because a lot of people are depressed right now.”

The flags are like a beacon of hope for them, he said, “like things are going to get better.”

He was talking from firsthand experience, too. He is one of many who have suffered the loss of a job in the Great Recession. Still, he had reason to be upbeat.

“My house is paid off, my three kids are all in college, and two of them have jobs,” he said with a big smile. One is in the nursing program at Modesto Junior College, another is at San Joaquin Delta College, and the third one is at California State University at Stanislaus. Two of them are working at Target Store. His wife is also working at the Salvation Army store in Stockton.

Just seeing the flags, said Heidemann, “makes me feel very lucky to be here (living in the United States) and alive. They honor those people who laid their lives down for this flag.”

A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy who declined to give his name shared that same feeling and sentiment.

The flags over Manteca “make the people aware of who we are and why we’re free. We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave,” he said.