A neighborly gift of glory
Recipients surprise the surprisers as new flag is being hoisted
Ryan Newell and fiancé Kari Cook and Kevin and Lori Fruechting are neighbors.
They’re not close friends, but friendly neighbors, living next to each other on Tanglewood Ln. in Marion. They’re the kind of neighbors who greet each other with waves and smiles and occasionally do nice things for each other.
“Last summer they sneaked over and mowed our yard one day, which was really cool,” Cook said. “We went and sneaked and put plants on their porch to say thank you.”
The Fruechtings had another sneaky surprise in store for their neighbors last week, but this time they were caught in the act.
An American flag that flies in Newell’s yard reflects more than small-town patriotism. It marks the home of a former Army sergeant who was seriously wounded in the war in Afghanistan nearly a decade ago.
Prairie winds and storms had taken their toll on the flag Newell and Cook put up last summer.
“It was just torn all to bits; it was pretty bad,” Cook said. “We’d been talking about replacing it.”
However, the Fruechtings had been having the same conversation.
“The flag looked like it had been up there a while and had seen better days,” Kevin Fruechting said.
So the Fruechtings decided they would surprise their neighbors with a new one.
Fruechting knew his employer, Tampa State Bank, had for years gotten its flags through Donna Kreutziger and the VFW Auxiliary flag program. The flags were free, although Kreutziger accepted donations. He reached out, Kreutziger brought a flag, and he made a donation to cover the cost.
Then the Fruechtings waited for a chance to spring the surprise. It came last week when Newell and Cook went camping at the reservoir and the Fruechtings noticed they weren’t home.
“Our plan was to just put it up and put a note on the door just saying, ‘Thank you for your service and your sacrifice,’” Fruechting said.
However, just as Fruechting was getting ready to hoist the new banner, Newell and Cook pulled up. They had come home to check on their dogs.
“Kevin and Lori were replacing the flag,” Cook said. “I was kind of speechless. It was emotional. When you have neighbors step up to show their affection and gratitude to Ryan, it’s inspiring.”
Freuchting said he wasn’t sure how the gift would be received until he saw the look on Cook’s face.
“She was just smiling, and I knew we were OK then,” he said. “This one should last them a long time. It was a lot of fun to do.”