HARKER HEIGHTS — The afternoon sky was filled with bright spots of red, white and blue Monday outside American Legion Post 573 as several dozen people released 106 balloons in honor of past, present and future veterans.

“For many veterans, our nation was important enough to endure long separations from their families, miss the births of children, freeze in subzero temperatures, bake in wild jungles, lose limbs, and far too often lose their lives,” post commander Sonja Skinner said before the balloons were released. “Let us release our balloons with reverence to all who have willingly and honorably served our country.”

The balloons were tagged with the names of family members and friends American Legion members wanted to honor.

Helen Nelson, an American Legion Auxiliary member, tagged her balloons with the name of a good friend and veteran who recently passed away.

“We’ve lost a lot of veterans from here in the last year,” she said.

As the crowd began to disperse, the balloons faded into the sun before the cool wind pushed them west.

Eastern Hills Middle School student Elizabeth Abernathy stared into the sky and pointed to the distant horizon.

“I can still see them; they’re over there,” she said.

Elizabeth is the newest member of the American Legion Junior Auxiliary. She released seven balloons in honor of family members and friends.

This was the first year the Legion did the Veterans Day balloon release, but members hope to get other area American Legion posts involved and make it an annual tradition.

“We got the idea from an American Legion magazine,” Nelson said. “So we’re going to do it again next year, and hopefully we can get it bigger.”

Contact Kristi Johnson at kristij@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7548

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