By Jim Schroeder
Fifty-two American flags waved in the breeze outside the Hill County Courthouse on Wednesday in honor of the many Americans who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Through those flags walked retired Havre Elementary school teacher Anita Powers, one of 12 people recognizing by the American Legion for having family members in the armed services.
They were part of the first observance of Patriots Day, for which the flags will be flown every Sept. 11. The American Legion celebration included a 21-gun salute and a flyover by two Montana Air National Guard F-16s. It was one of several held Wednesday in honor of the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Powers and 11 other area residents were presented a 5-by-8-inch Blue Star service banner. The banners date back to 1917 and are given to families of active-duty service members. They were most widely used during World War II and were displayed in windows to let neighbors know a loved one was on active duty.
The American Legion is now giving the Blue Star service banner to let the country know how close to home the war on terrorism is, American Legion commander Rick Wyer said.
One of Powers' twin nieces, Janice VanAlstine, is a registered nurse in the Army Nursing Corps and was called up in March to serve in Germany.
The American Legion also presented Blue Star service flags to Havre Mayor Bob Rice and Hill County Commissioner Pat Conway. The city's flag will hang at City Hall and the county's flag will be flown on the west side of the Courthouse.
The lineup for the ceremony included speeches by Havre Police Chief Kevin Olson, Rice, the Rev. John Chapman of the First Baptist Church and Wyer.
Powers stayed after the event to see one of the speakers, former student Joe Ross. Ross was master of ceremonies of the American Legion commemoration.
Ross was one of Powers' sixth-grade students in 1981. He works at Cavaliers clothing store, which is owned by his father.
Powers was his science teacher and they actively participated in projects like the incubation of chicken eggs, Ross said.
Wednesday was the first time he'd seen Powers since his sixth-grade year at Sunnyside Elementary.
"It made me feel really good that she said hi to me after 20 years and that's definitely a commitment to her trade and her craft. And she said good job,' which made me feel good," Ross said.
The Havre High School band played a number of patriotic songs, including the songs of all branches of the U.S. military. The courthouse lawn echoed with the familiar drum beats of "Anchors Away" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
The VFW honor guard presented a gun salute. Steve Flatau, pastor of the Assembly of God church, sang "God Bless the U.S.A."
Pilots from the 120th Fighter Wing flew overhead at 12:55 p.m.
The flyover was Powers' favorite part of the ceremony.
"The flyover was rather awesome because it's something I've never seen in Havre before," she said.