BLOOMINGTON – A 25-foot tall flag pole flying a 5-by-8-foot Stars and Stripes at an east-side business was a step up from the small flag that used to be put in a holder on an outside wall, but Butch Ekstam felt something was still missing.
Ekstam, a U.S. Air Force veteran and real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Heart of America Realtors, wanted a way to honor veterans of all branches of the armed forces who served in war and peace.
A pencil sketch by Ekstam turned into display of five circular plaques with the emblems of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force on poles 3 feet above the ground surrounding the flag pole at the Coldwell Banker offices at 802 S. Eldorado Road.
The business at welcomes people to see the display.
Larry Hundman, owner and president, donated the flag pole which set the stage for the display.
"We had a lot of people who helped," Ekstam said.
That included, in addition to Hundman, American Legion Post 635 in Normal and Post 56 in Bloomington, which performed a ceremony when the first flag was raised late last fall; Denny Grieder of Grieder Landscaping; Jeff and Andy Danford of Danford Landscaping; Bob Hull of Stage One; and Milt Emerson and Gary Rapp of Coldwell Banker.
Ekstam had hoped the project would be completed in time for Memorial Day but was happy to have everything in place before the country celebrates its birthday on the Fourth of July.
For Ekstam, the project was more than personal, it was a matter of family.
Five generations have served in the military – from his paternal grandfather who served in France in World War I to his granddaughter who is in the Marine Corps Reserves.
"This is the story for so many families, locally and across the United States," Ekstam said.
"My dad did five landings in the Philippines" in World War II, he said. "Three of them were under attack; one was an air attack."
Ekstam is hopeful the display could be the site of a tribute on Veterans Day for veterans of all eras.