LAKESIDE, Calif. — Seventy-four American flags are now lining Highway 67 in Lakeside. All of them donated, many in honor of loved ones lost fighting for our country. For the project's organizer, Billy Ortiz, this outpouring of support has been overwhelming.
“This is Lakeside hugging our country, saying thank you,” said the lifelong Lakeside resident. When Ortiz asked his community to donate flags, he thought he'd get around 50, but just four days later, he had nearly triple that amount.
“This is probably the most important thing I've ever done in my life,” he said. “It really is - because my parents were immigrants and they have here so we could have a better life and they gave it to me and that's for everybody who has ever worked hard to make this country great.”
With a band playing patriotic music, about 30 volunteers came out to the site near Mapleview Street and attached the flags to a fence lining Keller Drilling's property. For Billy, this was a peaceful solution to a growing controversy.
Earlier this month, some residents lined a public section of Highway 67 with flags, but CalTrans - calling them a distraction to drivers - took them down. A few days later, more flags went up, and again CalTrans took them down.
Billy saw where this was heading so he found private property for the patriotic project and residents are responding with smiles.
“I love it,” said Ruth Miller. “It warms my heart.” Miller, with Lakeside's Main Avenue Revitalization Association, is also putting a positive spin on the flag flap. She’s giving them away to businesses in her district so now old glory is flying all over town.
Keller has agreed to let the flags stay through September 11. After that, Billy is hoping to donate them to local residents and businesses who will proudly place them on their property around town.
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