Raising Old Glory

Jason Ferguson
A retired self-described patriot from Nebraska hopes to light up the night sky with love July 3.
On that night, John Senser hopes to bring together people of every race and religion to unite under the world’s largest American flag.
“The U.S. has challenges, but I think this could be the epicenter for healing in this nation right here in South Dakota,” he said. “I’d love to see a procession of people walking unde­r it and lighting it up. We’re all Americans.”
Senser’s plan will see hundreds of people gather at the Buffalo Chip Campground (although the location is tentative) to both hold and walk under the flag in an hourglass formation, with people who are spread out — both literally and metaphorically — gathering closer to walk under the flag with a flashlight or cell phone light before spreading back out as they come from under the flag.
“What if we have as many people as we can get walking under the flag ... people from different parts of the country, different nationalities, religions, to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Senser said.
He said his brother, Dane, thought of the idea. The original idea was to unfurl the flag, which is 255 feet by 505 feet, weighs 3,000 pounds and takes 600 people to hold, in Buena Vista, Colo. That changed when he learned President Donald Trump plans to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial July 3.
The Senser brothers, along with their sister, Sharyn McCoy, then set their sights on making South Dakota the stage for the flag unfurling. The state’s motto, “Under God, the people rule,” further cemented that position.
“We love your governor. We call it a free state,” Senser said. “She is the only governor who didn’t tell people to stay home (for the COVID-19 pandemic) and left people to be responsible.”
Senser said the flag, which is in California, has been displayed several times since the 1970s, but never at night. Once the idea for the event was born, Senser, with the help of District 30 Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller, set out to find a location and a way to make the unfurling happen.
Ideally, Senser said, Air Force One would take President Trump over the flag as it is displayed. Even if that doesn’t happen, he said it will be a great opportunity for people to come together. Ideally, Air Force personnel from Ellsworth Air Force base as well as other military veterans will hold the flag and lead the march under the flag.
“Who defends the country? The military. Who defends what the flag stands for and our freedom? The military,” Senser said. “I think it will be a very emotional moment for those veterans thinking about the men and women who gave their lives and limbs for this country.”
First responders and Scouts could be asked to help with the flag, as well, Senser said, as well as regular folks who are patriotic and want to be a part of the event.
Senser has invited the wife of the man who had the flag made to the event and hopes to have her escorted to the event by patriots. 
Senser said anyone who wants to be a part of event simply has to show up.
“It’s such an organic thing and we didn’t really have much time (to organize),” he said. “Sometimes those are the best things. The nation needs something to rally around and be proud of. Why not our beautiful American flag?”
A gofundme page is being organized for the event, Senser is working to get the Wounded Warrior Project involved, a company has been hired to manage the event and sponsorships are sought. Sponsors may donate at Wells Fargo.
As the father of a rescue swimmer in the Navy and the son of a World War II veteran, Senser tears up when he thinks of the military and coming together as a nation.
“One light by itself isn’t a big deal. But when we all come together with our lights, it illuminates what the flag stands for,” he said.
If someone wants to help with a $100 sponsorship to bring the flag here or hold the flag, call Dane Senser at 605-340-5090.

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