Veteran reveres Civil-war era relic
Robert Evans, southwest Lawrence
Tucked in a pillowcase, inside a plastic bag, inside a plastic box, is a piece of Bob Evans' family history.
It's a large flag - measuring 5 by 8 feet - that once belonged to Henry Sylvanus Rockey, Evans' grandfather and a veteran of the Civil War.
The stars and white stripes are a bit yellowed, the red probably isn't as blazing as it once was, and the edges are frayed, but it's not tough to envision what this 38-star flag must have looked like flying over Rockey's bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio.
That's where the Rockey brothers - in direct competition with the Wright brothers, the bicycle-shop owners who are more famous for their aviation pursuits - kept a store in the late 1800s.
Evans, 85, knows most families don't have a relic like this.
"It means a lot," he says. "Every time a niece or nephew comes, we like to show it off."
Evans' grandfather was with the Ohio volunteer regimen from 1861 to either 1864 or 1865. Evans himself served in the Navy from 1942 to 1946, including time in the Philippines.
Evans, a retired engineer who lives in southwest Lawrence, plans to keep the family tradition alive by giving the flag to his oldest son, Robert "Rockey" Evans Jr., who currently lives in Aberdeen, Scotland.
"I'm a veteran," Evans says. "I kind of revere the flag."
Couple mad about red, white and blue
Marvin and Sheila McCurdy, rural Lawrence
Clyde and Sugar just might be the most patriotic goats in Douglas County.
The barn where they live, just north of Lawrence on Kasold Drive, has a 6-by-10-foot American flag painted on the side. Nearby is a satellite dish with a flag painted on it, and another with the Statue of Liberty.
Marvin and Sheila McCurdy decided to paint the barn after 9-11, to honor Sheila's son, who is in the Marines.
"Measuring it out was a lot of work," says Marvin, 78.
Step inside the McCurdy house, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a spot not covered in red, white or blue. There are paintings of flags, flags on dolls, flags on ceramic bulls, a stained-glass flag and a soap dispenser with a flag.
They fly two flags outside daily - one in the front yard, the other in the back.
Sheila, 62, has a tattoo of a flag on her ankle. She often slips her feet into red, white and blue Crocs when she's at home.
Sheila's love affair with Old Glory is well-known among her friends. But she struggles to put her appreciation into words.
"I guess it's freedom, more than anything," she says. "It's an appreciation for the United States, for the country and for the military."
Flags have special meaning for families, friends
Grace Carmody, southwest Lawrence
Grace Carmody, a jewelry artist by trade, knows the small rhinestone brooch isn't worth much money.
But it's priceless to her, in terms of patriotic and sentimental value.
Her mother wore the flag pendant, measuring 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches, on special holidays and to her husband's veteran meetings, starting in the 1950s or 1960s.
"My father was very patriotic," says Carmody, 70. "I can never remember not having a flag flown. The first thing we'd do when we moved into a new house was install the flag pole."
Carmody's father, Leo C. Wagner, was in the Navy from 1917 to 1920. After he got his discharge papers, he still raised the flag every day at his home.
The small brooch was given to Carmody's mother, Grace Wagner, because her husband was a leader with the Military Officers Association of America.
Today, Carmody, who lives in southwest Lawrence, wears it proudly on special days.
"I get it out about every Memorial Day (and) Fourth of July," she says. "It's a keepsake."
Don Sheriff, rural Eudora
Sometimes, nothing says "I'm thinking of you" quite like beef jerky.
That's what Don Sheriff learned during the early days of the war in Iraq.
Sheriff, 79, was in the Air Force from 1944 to 1967 and knew what it meant to hear from people at home.
So he decided to become an e-mail pen pal with Rod Moyer, principal at Eudora's West Elementary School and a staff sergeant with the 891st Engineering Battalion of the Kansas National Guard.
Sheriff and Moyer exchanged thoughts about once a day, often talking about the differences between modern-day war and war during Sheriff's time in the service.
Sheriff also sent at least a pound of Pyle's beef jerky, made in Eudora, to the soldiers of the 891st weekly during their stint in Iraq, which lasted from December 2004 to December 2005.
"The night crew would go out patrolling roads, looking for bombs in the nighttime," Sheriff says. "(Moyer) would give them a handful of jerky. They couldn't smoke or anything at nighttime, so they'd put a wad of that in their mouths like gum or chewing tobacco."
For his support of troop morale, Moyer sent Sheriff a flag that had been flown over Tallil, Iraq, on Memorial Day 2005.
It now serves as a reminder of all the soldiers Sheriff has known.
"When I look at it," he says, "I know what the boys went through."
John Van Sickel, western Lawrence
Vincent T. Van Sickel, who served in the Army from World War II through the late 1960s, always liked to tell war stories.
Among his favorites: His sergeant once got shot in the butt and was certain he was dying, only to realize his life had been saved by a tin can he kept in his back pocket. And the warm fluid he felt oozing down his leg wasn't blood, but baked beans.
Van Sickel, 85, doesn't tell those stories anymore. The Alzheimer's stole them, like it stole the memory of his son's face.
That son, John Van Sickel of Lawrence, recently moved his father and mother to a nursing facility in Topeka. He walks in now, and his parents know his face is familiar but don't know exactly why. That hurts.
Through that experience, John Van Sickel has realized exactly what a flag kept in his family means to him.
He found the 48-star flag in the basement of his parents' house as he was preparing to move them to a nursing home. It was in a chest, beneath some of his father's Army uniforms.
The flag initially was draped over the casket of John Van Sickel's grandfather, who the family was pretty sure was gassed during World War I, and whom Van Sickel never knew. Now, it represents another fading generation, the one his parents belong to.
"We don't know how much longer they'll be around, so the flag is a strong reminder of what my father, and his father before him, did in life - the sacrifices they and their families made," says Van Sickel, 49, a Web designer for World Online, owned by the parent company of the Journal-World.
Van Sickel figures he'll give the flag to his son down the road to serve as a reminder of his father.
"I think he had faith in the military, and he loved the country," he says. "To this day, even with the trouble he's endured, in his mind, the U.S. military can do no wrong."
Trumble family, southern Lawrence
The flags encased in the home of Marty and Tina Trumble represent a love story, both for country and for each other.
The Trumbles are both Navy veterans. They met on a tiny British island in the Indian Ocean known as Diego Garcia, a paradise from which U.S. B-52s left during the first Gulf War to bomb Iraq.
Tina tells the story of their meeting this way, and Marty raises few objections:
Tina first noticed Marty on the transport plane that dropped them on the island in 1991. Marty worked security on the island and was too important to notice a lowly human resources worker like Tina.
They met months later, when Marty had a friend tell Tina he wanted to meet her, junior-high style.
So they met, hit it off and were married by a British magistrate six months later, in February 1992. They made the marriage official in Kansas later that month.
When sailors retire from the Navy, they're given a flag to be flown anywhere in the world as a thank-you for their service.
Marty, 39, chose to have his flag flown at City Hall. He grew up in Lawrence, joined boot camp right after graduating from Lawrence High School in 1984, and knew he'd return as a military recruiter and establish roots here with his family.
Tina, meanwhile, opted to have her flag flown at Diego Garcia, where they were only the 14th couple ever to be married.
"Tina was pretty much greeting everybody on the island," says Marty, who works for Penny's Concrete. "And working security, I knew all the fun people - the troublemakers. We pretty much did it for all our friends there. It was something unusual we wanted to do."
Now, 14 years and an 8-year-old daughter later, Diego Garcia remains a fond memory and a place the Trumbles won't be able to visit again, because of military restrictions.
But in cases gathering dust in their basement, and in their hearts, the memory lives on.
"It was one of my best commands," says Tina, 43, who now works at NCS Pearson. "It was a great place. It was a typical romantic, tropical island, with white sandy beaches and reefs."
"Only this one," Marty interjects, "would have B-52s going on bombing runs."