Serviceman’s flag replaced following fire

Published 7:00 pm Friday, November 26, 2010

The American flag is a symbol of courage, freedom, honor andpride. For one Lincoln County resident, though, the Star SpangledBanner is all that and more.

Lana Swarts was in Arkansas digging for diamonds with her son onhis 14th birthday party.

“It was exciting until I called home and I had to cut our tripshort and come back,” Swarts said.

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Swarts would return to her home on Zetus Road to find a pile ofrubble and lost memories. She mentioned authorities thought it wasan electrical fire on Oct. 8 that claimed all of her belongings,including her flag.

“The flag was one of the most precious things in there becauseit was Rick’s,” Swarts said.

Lana Swarts had been with Hugh Swarts Jr., or Rick as he isknown to his family and friends, for roughly five years when helost his life on March 31 from injuries sustained in an automobileaccident in Stephenville, Texas.

Rick Swarts, born and raised in Summit, served in the U.S. Navyand Lana Swarts, like most military wives, was given a flag at herlate husband’s funeral – the same flag she would lose in the housefire just seven months later.

“Losing Rick, then losing the flag – it was almost like losinghim again,” said Swarts. “You can replace the furniture and things,but the sentimental things you can’t.”

Mike and Maria Herring, members of the American Red Cross, weresome of the first to respond to the scene of the fully involvedfire. One of their many responsibilities is taking care of theimmediate needs of clients.

“She just kept on mentioning that flag and that stuck in mymind,” said Mike Herring. “I knew we had to do something.”

Do something is exactly what the American Red Cross did.

Mike and Maria Herring, with the help of fellow American RedCross member Jo Ann Mazer and a few others, presented Lana Swartswith a new American flag at a ceremony in the Military MemorialMuseum on Tuesday.

“If it makes her life a little happier, we’ve done all we wantedto do,” said Charles Langley, American Legion Post 79 commander,who presented the flag to Lana Swarts.

While the loss is still hard, Lana Swarts can now hopefullybreathe a little easier having back a reminder of her latehusband.

“It means everything in the world. I’m going to guard it andkeep it safe,” said Lana Swarts. “It’s almost like it’s a littlepart of Rick.”

Lana Swarts went on to thank all the volunteers and people whomade it possible in getting a new flag, and a new memory.

“I’m so grateful to live in a community like Brookhaven, knowingthat there are people who care,” she said.