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Area's patriotism is alive



Published: Fri, September 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Western Reserve Flag Co. experienced about a tenfold increase in sales because of demand for American flags.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Anna Kasten shows black-and-white photos that tell the story of the day her father, a helicopter pilot, was shot down as he served America during the Korean War.

She also recalls the day, when she was 7, that she learned her uncle had been killed while serving in Vietnam.

Maybe that's why her patriotism has her flying 23 flags and two buntings at her home on West Main Street.

Or maybe it's because she and husband Kraig feel safe in a neighborhood where their children can ride their bikes in the street. Maybe they are thankful that their children can grow up and become anything they want to be.

Additional meaning: But the flags have even more urgency now as the Kastens -- like much of America -- search for some way to show support for their country and concern for victims of the Tuesday terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

"I do think people are patriotic," Anna said. "I think something like this happens and it really pulls them together."

Signs of patriotism are popping up all over the Mahoning Valley, from cars and semi-trucks with flags waving from antennas to business signs that have stopped advertising to say, "God Bless America," "One Nation Under God. Indivisible," or "Please Pray for Fellow Americans." Newspapers are running cut-out flags. Radio stations are playing patriotic songs.

Homeowners, schools, government offices and business are hanging patriotic decals in windows, flying new flags and raising banners.

At Hayes Middle School in Youngstown, pupils have crafted a 12-by-5-foot flag with painted stripes and white construction paper stars. It reads "God Bless America." Teachers laminated the flag and it hangs out a third-floor window.

"It's so big. It's touching," said teacher Denise Zordich. "We're hoping it inspires everybody to hang out their flags."

Pupils at Hayes, fifth through eight graders, have always said the pledge of allegiance each morning before classes start.

"The kids, they still have such big hearts," Zordich said. "As much as the people who did this want us to fall apart as a nation, it makes us stronger, even in our communities."

Buying the flag: At the Western Reserve Flag Co., 7301 West Blvd., an estimated 800 flags -- ranging in size from 4-by-6-inch to 6-by-10-foot -- were sold by 2 p.m. Thursday, said Cathy Lind, company president. She said it is about a tenfold increase in sales; about the same amount was sold during the two weeks around July 4. She said the company is nearly sold out and suppliers are saying that placed orders may not be filled.

Lind is also president of the Youngstown Area Grocers Association, and all flag sale profits go to the association's college scholarship fund.

She said her traditional customers are senior citizens and war veterans, but "now we're seeing everybody, from local businesses who have never displayed a flag to young people and mothers bringing in their children."

She said the show of patriotism is "long overdue."

"Let's hope it lasts long after and people realize how lucky we are to be here," she added.

At Wal-Mart stores nationwide, more than 200,000 American flags were purchased on Wednesday, said spokeswoman Sharon Weber. More than 115,000 Americans bought flags on Tuesday. That compares to 10,000 flags sold on Sept. 13, 2000, she said.

Butch Lukehart of Mineral Ridge has hung a "God Bless America" banner in front of the Triumph Auto Glass store he manages in Boardman. He's hung an identical sign in his yard at home, decked out with lights. He said the terrorist attack has awakened American patriotism.

"It just took a little shot in the arm," he said. "Everybody's going to rally behind any decision that's made. ... You can't come into our house and push us around."

Showing support: At Life-Time Truck Products Inc. in Canfield, workers have hung a flag above a warehouse and hoisted up a banner reading, "God Bless America. Pray for the Victims."

"Our employees said, 'What can we do?'" said owner Shirley Freed-Matula. "We all had a big desire to do something."

Besides the banner, the company will introduce new "God Bless America" mud flaps with an American flag and eagle.

She said he tragedy has stirred up patriotism and Americans' reactions will show young people what patriotism really means.

Struthers High School students are planning a salute to America at 7 tonight, before the varsity football game. Choir student Amanda Cappitte, a senior, said students will pull out a flag nearly the size of the football field and unfurl it across the gridiron as the band plays patriotic music.

"A lot of people have put their lives on hold," Cappitte said. "We thought we should do something out of respect."

Armed forces: Patriotism is also alive and well at the Navy recruiting center in Boardman, said Chief Richard Delisio. He said calls and visits to the center have increased fivefold. While he may have received three or four inquiries per day before the tragedy, he now receives 20 or more. Many are veterans who want to return to serve. Others are young people, both men and women, wanting to enlist.

Several local radio and television stations plan a "Celebrate America" gathering at 3 p.m. Saturday at Southern Park Mall. The event will feature music, speakers, prayer and discussion. Personalities from WQXK-FM 105, WYFM-FM 103 and WHOT-FM 101; and WKBN-TV 27; will serve as hosts. Also participating is WYFX-TV 17/62.

Back at Kasten's home is an example of the American dream. The couple purchased a wonderful home; Kraig is a skilled trades painter at GM Lordstown and has started his own painting contracting business; they have four children -- two boys, two girls -- ages 9 through 22.

Anna has given the youngest daughter a small flag to decorate her locker at school. She said she never thought her children would see a war.

Younger generation: Kraig, 40, said he'd be willing to fight for America if felt he could help. But what about the couple's 19 year old son?"

"It would sadden me, but I would support him," Kraig said.

As for Anna, her first reaction, she said, would be to find someone for him to marry.

Then she paused and sighed.

"We've had fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers fighting for our freedom," Anna said. "And he would be honoring them to go and fight for what they fought for."




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