Shasta Resper’s thumbs began to throb after hours of pushing small American flags into the cold November ground.
“I was complaining about my thumbs, but I’m not one of these flags,” the 31-year-old Iraqi War veteran said. “There’s nothing we can truly complain about… because we’re still here.”
The 6,621 flags on the Overcash lawn of Central Piedmont Community College’s central campus represent the number of American soldiers who have been killed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
For the past four years, the college’s chapter of Student Veterans of America has erected the sea of flags in honor of Veterans Day.
Sandee Patton, the SVA’s adviser, said putting up the flags is a group effort: The school’s survey club surveyed the land and outlined where the flags would go. Then more than 30 volunteers, including a student veteran and his mother, helped push the flags into the lawn.
Currently, 921 veterans are enrolled at CPCC, she said.
Patton said it’s hard to believe so many soldiers have died in the past 11 years.
“It’s really breathtaking,” she said of the expanse of flags. “Sad but breathtaking.”
Jeff Sexton, 24, also spent many hours hammering flags into the ground for the memorial.
“It takes time, but it’s totally worth it,” Sexton said. “It reminds me of friends I’ve lost and the sacrifice it takes to keep our country free.”
He has served in the Army in Germany, Iraq and Kuwait, and he is now studying international business.
Sexton said that since serving overseas, Veterans Day has taken on a more significant meaning to him.
“It’s a really big day for me,” he said. “I was surprised how patriotic people are. It’s a really great day. It’s become more than just another day for me.”
Resper, the president of CPCC’s SVA, said Veterans Day isn’t just about the lives represented by flags on the lawn.
“It’s for every veteran,” she said. “That’s what Veterans Day is all about. It’s about all generations.”