LIMA — Herb Sherrell, of Lima, is not a man who likes to live in the past.
However, he also knows that you cannot live in today without acknowledging sacrifices made in the past. He learned firsthand what it takes to make that sacrifice when he left Korea as a member of the First Calvary as a tanker to go to the Vietnam War. On Feb. 25, he found out that there are people out there who remember the sacrifice others have made.
On that day, he went out to check his mail to find a box. The box was simply marked “Patriot” with his address.
“I saw a Missouri address on it,” Sherrell said. “I thought about it, and talked to my wife, and we didn’t remember knowing anyone down there.”
Sherrell opened the box and found a U.S. flag. The flag was marked to have flown over the Department of State Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq.
“I couldn’t believe someone would have recognized me in that way,” Sherrell said.
Sherrell, who lives at 906 E. Elm St., is well-known for the proud military display at his home. In one part of his yard, he displays an old pair of his military boots and a U.S. flag in memory of soldiers who are still missing.
“People will stop and say they like the display,” Sherrell said. “Every once in a while I will receive letters in the mail, but never anything like this.”
As it turns out, another U.S. Army veteran, Loren Smith, of Lebanon, Missouri, was visiting friends and family in Akron. On their way home, they stopped to eat at a restaurant they had heard about in Lima. The restaurant was closed, so they continued further to go to Kewpee. Smith passed Sherrell home and saw the display, and was touched by it.
“I wrote him a letter thanking him for his service,” Smith said. “I told him it meant a lot. People still honor veterans, but you see it less than what you use to. We drive across country a lot, and you do not see it as much. I saw the display and the flags, it was the least I could do.”
After leaving the service as a medic, Smith returned to Iraq and was in charge of the hospital in Baghdad. One of his jobs was to oversee the flying of the flag each day. He had a few flags that had flown at the hospital and thought it was only appropriate that Sherrell had one.
Sherrell now has had the chance to talk to Smith by phone, speaking to him Tuesday. He said it is a gesture he will never forget. He plans to have the flag framed and will display it in his home.
The letter read as follows:
“My wife and I were driving through your town and noticed all the flags in your yard. As a prior service Army medic this touched me. I recently returned from Iraq in December as a contractor running DOS Hospital in Baghdad. I had a flag I flew the year before while running the hospital on the Consulate General in Baghdad, Iraq. I am sending you this flag to show my gratitude to you for your service and patriotism. I hope this note finds you well and that you accept this humble gift.
“Sincerely, Loren Smith II.”
Sherrell said he hopes that others will remember the sacrifice made, beyond just those that were also veterans. He is known to offer flags to schoolchildren walking by his home with one catch, they have to be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
“You just don’t know what other people have been through,” Sherrell said. “I think about the mothers, and what they have been through. I look at my own life. I think they [other veterans] know that somebody cares.”
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.