A northwest Iowa town is working to keep the memory of one of their own alive.
Randy and Carol Blass experienced an outpouring of support when their son was killed in Afghanistan this spring.
In the fall, Friday nights mean football in small towns.
“Everybody likes to show up to support our local football team,” said Mark Friesner, Henry-Olson Funeral Home Director.
The Blass family spent many Friday nights in the stands watching their son Steve play ball for Estherville Lincoln Central.
“He just dedicated his life to moving the ball back and forth and catching the guy running the ball,” remembered Randy.
However in March, the 2003 grad was killed in Afghanistan. He was the crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed during a training mission. Since then, this small town has done something else small towns do, not just on Fridays, but every day of the week, every hour of the day: Take care of their own.
“We’re still in awe,” said Carol. “We all share in each other’s happiness and we share in each other’s sadness,” she added.
Patriotism runs deep in northwest Iowa, where the American flag flies high with pride.
“Community support at the time we lost Steve was just overwhelming. It’s just continued,” pointed out Carol.
“There were so many flags at gravel road intersections in the small communities that we drove through,” said. Friesner, who organized the latest tribute to SSG Blass.
That solemn outpouring has inspired a new effort to honor Staff Sergeant Blass. The red, white, and blue will fly high on a 60 foot flag pole next to the new score board on the ELC football field.
“I think it’s a fitting tribute because he was one of ours,” said Estherville Lincoln Central Athletics Director Brad Leonard.
Leonard said many of their students were involved in putting flags out around town immediately after Staff Sergeant Blass’s death.
Each year, several of their graduates go on to serve in the military.
The district hopes the new flag will help their students understand the value of our military.
“It represents all the people who sacrificed for them to be able to do the things they want to do,” Leonard pointed out.
“It will be really neat to see something that will keep Steven’s memory alive,” said Randy.
Staff Sergeant Blass was the first Estherville, IA military member to die since the Vietnam War. In 1967, the local VFW dedicated this flag pole. The new one will honor not only Blass, but all veterans past, present, and future.
“It represents everything that we stand for and that we fight for,” explained SGT Tyler Clabaugh, a member of the Army National Guard, and ELC grad.
Right now, the community is raising money to pay for the $6,000 tribute.
“We’re getting $10 in the mail from little old ladies, $20 in the mail, and local businesses are stepping forward,” added Friesner.
Randy and Carol will be back at ELC in September, not in the stands, but on the field, to dedicate the flag.
“Never in a million years did we think we’d be doing this,” Carol reflected.
Just another way their town has stepped up to show their support for their hometown hero.
“All of the help we’ve received from the community helps heal our hearts,” Randy said.
The flag will be dedicated on Friday, September 6th, around 7 p.m.
That’s before the Estherville football team’s first home game of the season.
To donate to the project, you can send a check:
The Estherville Booster Club
401 North 7th Street
Estherville, Iowa 51334.
Thanks to sister station, KTIV.