As a way to kick off the fourth of July weekend, hundreds of people gathered in River Prairie Park in Altoona to watch the raising of the American flag at the Chippewa Valley Veterans Tribute.
While socially distancing, veterans and people from the community watched the 40 by 80 foot American flag raise up onto its 140-foot flag pole.
"It means everything to our veterans," said Eau Claire County Veterans Foundation President Mark Beckfield.
"You can't put it into words because it's so overwhelming," said veteran Eric Killen. "Then when you get all the veterans in one space and you do the national anthem and see this impressive flag it's an emotional event."
After over four years of planning by the Eau Claire County Veterans Foundation, people and veterans in the area say they are emotional to finally celebrate phase one of the four-phase tribute. The last phases will include an honor mall, a timeline trail, monuments, and stories of local veterans.
"This is really important in the Chippewa Valley," said Alex Laffey of Eau Claire. "We don't have a flag like this as large and as incredible as this so being able to drive by it every day is going to be incredible for all of the people throughout the Chippewa Valley."
"The whole tribute of the Chippewa Valley Veterans Tribute is to honor the flag in our country," said Beckfield. "To educate our youth that freedom is not free and to remember those in the Chippewa Valley who have served with honor and their stories will be told right here in River Prairie."
Veterans and people from the community say there couldn't have been a better way to start their fourth of July weekend even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this newly added American flag, veterans say they are excited to continue to see the community's appreciation.
"This is a big thank you every day when they drive by," said Beckfield. "Over 80,000 cars drive by here every day and we say thank you to our veterans. Thank you for your service."
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