A Quiet Tribute to a Quiet Man


Nearly two years ago, our community was preparing to “welcome home” a group of sons and brothers and dads who had been deployed to a war-torn country 7,000 miles away.  This company of soldiers’ tour-of-duty in Iraq had been extended and after sixteen months of serving in harms way, the time had come for them to return home.


People from all walks of life helped prepare for this homecoming, representing multiple generations and political affiliations.  And on that late July day in 2007, Skip Lohse quietly and unceremoniously organized a crew of fellow co-workers to demonstrate their gratitude to this group of young fellow veterans returning from war.  As a father of two of those soldiers returning from combat, Skip’s efforts touched me deeply – and I will always be mindful of how a simple act can convey such a powerful message.


Skip had served in the Navy for thirty years, and was now nearing the end of his thirty years of service with a local utility company.  As is true with many veterans who have served during wartime, the words of “duty, honor and country” carry significance beyond what many of us can comprehend.  To “honor” those who had been actively serving their “country” for nearly two years, Skip Lohse’s “duty” was to mark this moment – and he did so with dignity, simplicity and symbolism.


As the rest of the community began to line the streets with spectators, signs and dignitaries, Skip and crew quietly drove their company’s ‘bucket truck’ to a bridge overpass south of the city.  As the large truck was secured and steadied, they began to slowly raise the hydraulic-powered boom arm eighty feet into the air.  As they did so, what unfurled from its tethered links was a massive American Flag that began to gently wave as a southerly wind filled the sky with the patriotic colors of red, white and blue.


On the 27th day of July, buses carrying the war-weary soldiers were escorted by scores of sheriff, police and trooper cruisers – and the city’s celebration was about to begin.  From miles away (my sons would later attest), as the interstate convoy neared the city limits, the first sign of “home” they could view from afar was this majestic flag flying atop a towering boom stationed on a bridge.  For the next three miles, the convoy would be guided by this hoisted flag as they neared, then passed under, the bridge in route to their entrance into the city.


Community residents would soon be cheering and hollering, the gymnasium would be filled with family and friends waiting to hug and hold their soldier and loved one, and celebrations big and small would follow in the coming days and weeks.  But for all the ceremony and connectedness this small community would muster, their homecoming’s first symbol of appreciation was a flag, simply erected by a crew of men whose actions seemed to say:  “This is our way of honoring your duty to country.  Thank you.”


Unceremonious, unscripted, simple – and from the heart.  It is an event for which I will always pay homage to Skip.  The flag-raising over the bridge may not have been “center stage” in the hearts and minds of many who welcomed home this company of soldiers.  But for this grateful father of sons who lost three of their “band of brothers” in this war, his selfless act of tribute will always be remembered.


Skip’s family and friends recently gathered to honor him at his funeral.  A father, a husband, a citizen and a veteran – in all the roles he served in life, I will be forever humbled by how he quietly honored the service of others.






Written by John Dinsmore

March, 2009