By ERCEL EATON
The faded American Flag will fly today in front of the neat porch at 406 Elvin Ave.
But it won't be any different than any other day in the year. It waves every day above the planter filled with bright geraniums.
It has for a long time.
"Don't say 'Gold Star Mother,'" Mrs. Elmer Schneider said, "say 'Gold Star Parents'. The father loses them too."
The "gold" speaks for two sons lost while in military service of the United States.
But the "gold" says nothing compared to the volumes spoken by the tears that still come when David and Michael Schneider's letters and medals and military decorations are brought out.
The items were shown to a reporter during an interview requested by the Journal-News.
David was killed Feb. 19, 1969, in a foxhole 24 miles south of Quang Tri City, in Vietnam.
His brother, Michael, died in a plane crash in the United States almost exactly five years later - Michael was in the U. S. Air Force when he lost his life.
Michael, who had already served a hitch in the Marines, re-enlisted after David's death.
"Michael was in a very bad car wreck and was in the Veterans Hospital when the news of Davey's death came," Mrs. Schneider said.
"Michael couldn't come to the funeral ... he couldn't see Davey. After he recovered and went back to work he was so restless ... he had to go back ... because Davey was killed and he didn't get to see Davey. Michael thought he just had to go back."
So, when he couldn't get back into the Marines, Michael enlisted in the Air Force.
David had enlisted in the Marines three days after his graduation from Taft High School. He was 17.
"We didn't want him to do it, but he felt like he had to," she said.
"That's when all the protests were going on and people were running off to Canada. Our son Jim was serving a term in the Navy. Davey thought he should go because his brothers were serving."
On his way to Vietnam (he had just turned 18) Davey and his brother Michael met in California. Michael was returning from a tour in Vietnam. It was the first time they had seen each other in a long time.
It has been more than five years since Michael's death, more than 10 since David's, but the pain remains so real, it's as though it were yesterday that the young Marine officer stood in the lovely living room at 406 Elvin and delivered the devastating messages.
The military delivers gold star pins to parents of deceased servicemen. Mr. and Mrs. Schneider each have a star. She has had hers made into a ring.
The stars don't ease the grief that still rips at her, that sends her out to work "just to get out of the house."
"We taught them not to fight all their lives. But we taught them to respect the country and to obey the law. They said they didn't want to run away from it and they believed they were doing what was right," she said.
Although there was the added agony of widespread disgust with a "non-war," of cruel phone calls and unkind remarks even after their sons were dead, Mrs. Schneider is not bitter.
"Davey was a great, big, tall kid everybody loved," she said. "He was so kind. And he was special. He had rheumatoid arthritis when he was nine and that's why we thought they'd never take him into the service."
But they did. And that February when the North Vietnamese made a suicide attack on a hill his outfit had just captured, Davey was shot in the head after saving his buddies.
"I know some people can't see the reason for the war." Mrs Schneider said. "It was horrible to listen to them after the boys died. My boys were dead. I couldn't understand. It didn't make sense that they drafted so many boys then said it wasn't a war."
"My boys believed they had to go because it is our country. There were so many killed ... and it looked as if no one cared."
"I can't be bitter. It wouldn't be fair to my sons' beliefs. We fly the flag every day except when it rains. And every year I go out and help flag the graves of other servicemen.
I remember when the second news came ... I thought 'No. I can't go through this again.' But you don't die. You go on living."
"I know we have to have doctors and lawyers and other people in other professions in this country ... but it seems to me that if everyone pitched in for the country's defense, maybe things wouldn't happen, and boys wouldn't have to die."
"Maybe with the draft, everyone will be treated a little more equally."
Both her dead sons have received a long list of medals and citations.
There are other sons, a daughter, and grandchildren in the Schneider family.
Unavoidably, family gatherings carry a bittersweet share of pain. Mr. and Mrs. Schneider take special delight in their children and grandchildren , but they don't forget. They never forget.
The American Flag will fly in front of the Schneider home this Independence Day, but the grief and pain and significance are always there.
"We live with it every day," Mrs. Schneider said.