I love barns. I love the country. When I worked patrol for the Sheriff’s Department, many times my work zone encompassed the north end of our county which is mostly rural. It seemed as though as soon as I left the city behind and drove into the country, my whole body just went “ahhhhhh”. My mother was born in 1929 and raised on a farm that had been in her dad’s family for 50 years before that. She was one of eight children so us grandkids always had tons of cousins to play with when we went for family gatherings at Grandma and Grandpa’s. There was a hayloft in the cow barn the boy cousins and more adventurous girl cousins jumped out of. We played baseball in the side yard dodging chicken poop and gathered eggs, hoping we didn’t get pecked while doing it. Grandpa grew feed corn and us kids loved to shuck the corn and watch the chickens come running when we dropped it on the ground. Occasionally we got to ride the tractor down to the field with grandpa or swing on a grape vine that swung out over the creek. That was great fun until the day the grape vine broke and I landed six foot down in the creek. The farm is gone now, sold by my grandmother in the 1980s to a contractor who turned it into a subdivision.
On the 15th Anniversary of the terrorist attack on 9/11, Forest Park in St. Louis hosted “Flags of Valor” on its iconic “Art Hill” on the grounds of the Art Museum. This large hill, normally used for sledding during the winter, became the breathtaking stage for 7,021 America flags, each flag representing one American soldier who has died since September 11, 2001. It is hard to describe the feelings I had when we first glimpsed the rows upon rows of American Flags. One such soldier commemorated is Sgt. Sean Cooley, the husband of my children’s cousin. Each soldier’s name is indexed and the location of his flag is documented by row. As we were walking among the rows on our quest to find Sgt. Cooley’s flag, I couldn’t stop my tears as the realization hit me that each one of these flags represented a man or woman who sacrificed their life for me and whose loved ones will grieve them forever. It took a little while, but we were finally finally able to find his flag.
Sgt. Sean Cooley
Sgt. Sean Cooley, 35, a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard and assigned to Co. B., 150th Engineering Battalion, 155th Armor Brigade of Lucedale, Mississippi was killed on February 3, 2005 in the Northern Babil Province of Iraq when his armored vehicle was hit by a roadside IED. Sgt. Cooley had been in Iraq just a little over a month. Back home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Sean was an emergency room nurse who was liked and respected by all. “Sean M. Cooley’s dedication as an emergency room nurse and kindness to his patients were obvious when surveys of patients came in. ‘Sean still has the most stars on the board, and he has been gone several months. Everybody loved Sean Cooley,’ said Darlene Phillips, a registered nurse who worked with him. ‘He just loved people and touched the lives of so many children who came through the ER.'”–From Legacy.com. I wish I’d known him.
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To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, America’s Heartland Remembers is putting 7,021 flags on display at Art Hill in Forest Park. Each one will have a photograph of a fallen member of the military killed in the war on terror since 9/11.