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Hung by the Anonymous Patriot, the U.S. flag flies on Memorial Day from a bridge over the Eagle River on Vail Mountain. (John Dwaine McKenna / Courtesy photo)
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By John Dwaine McKenna

Every Memorial Day for the past decade or so, a quiet event takes place on the western slope of the Continental Divide, high up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, that exemplifies the American spirit of patriotism, freedom and honor for all those who’ve given “the last full measure of devotion” and laid down their lives in service to their country.

As the morning sun rises over the eastern plains and foothills, on the backside of Vail Mountain an anonymous patriot single-handedly unfurls a huge 24-by-36-foot flag from the center span of an iconic arched steel bridge, 200 feet over the Eagle River on Battle Mountain Pass, near Red Cliff.

The bridge, which was opened in 1940, is about nine miles south of Minturn and 20 miles north of the historic mining town of Leadville, on U.S. 24.

Then, after flying proudly all day, as dusk falls the anonymous patriot — A.P. for short — quietly retrieves the 80 pounds of star-spangled banner and stows it, along with all the nylon rigging that held it in place, until the following Memorial Day, when he’ll repeat the process and wave Old Glory again.

He does it to honor the spirit of the day — and to memorialize all those who’ve died in defense of our freedom.  When asked,  “How much longer can you keep doing it?” the A.P. will, he said, do so for as long as his health and strength allows.

The problem is the wind. He said, “I have to lay the flag out and tie it off without letting the breeze get it, because once it starts to fly there’s no stopping anything.”   Let’s hope — in this unprecedented time of shutdown, shut-in and shut up — he can continue for the foreseeable future, because the A.P. exemplifies in deeds, not words, the true spirit behind those stirring words,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring. He’s an example to all of us.

Be proud.

Be brave.

Be strong.

Stay free.

John Dwaine McKenna is a writer, commentator and reviewer who lives in Colorado Springs.  His newest book is “Unforsaken.” 

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