Group Plans Second 'I Love America Day'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2007 - With the help of an America Supports You member organization, Charlotte, N.C., will observe its second annual "I Love America Day" on March 19.

"Flags Across the Nation," which promotes patriotism through the arts, is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting the ways Americans are supporting the nation's servicemembers.

Eileen Schwartz, Flags Across the Nation's founder, said she started the "I Love America Day" movement because more than two months pass before Memorial Day without a patriotic holiday and to start a tradition of honoring America and its troops in that period.

"Part of the reason for doing it was to see if there's a way we can build our own history, ... which honors the troops (and shows) appreciation for America," Schwartz said. "Here's a holiday that gives people the opportunity to make a significant difference."

This year Charlotte will know just how much Carly Taich loves America. The 14-year-old Charlotte resident's award-winning artwork will be painted on the front of a dairy processing building belonging to a local farm.

Taich won first place in the "Flags for Freedom" 2006 Children's Patriotic Art Contest in the division for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Area students will be invited to visit the building featuring the paintings, and there will be some interactive activities, Schwartz said.

In fact, Schwartz said, she is hoping area residents will come to the farm the weekend before I Love America Day to help with the painting. Volunteers also will paint a 10-foot by 15-foot American flag on the side of the same building.

"We're going to have (local media) tell people that they can come on Saturday and Sunday to participate in creating and adding on to the painting," Schwartz said. "On Monday we will invite people to come to see the completed painting."

With the event still nearly two months away, Schwartz said she's still firming up all the details. She is, however, planning to record I Love America Day activities and burn CDs to send to servicemembers.

The local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter also has volunteered to help and will provide a few hundred small American flags for distribution to those who participate in the festivities. An area businessman has offered to donate 500 patriotic posters to hand out, as well, some of which will go to troops overseas, she said.

For those who won't be able to participate in the events in Charlotte but want to observe March 19 as I Love America Day, Schwartz suggested writing letters to the troops or making blankets for wounded warriors through her organization's Blankets for Recovery program.

Children can paint individual squares of fabric with a patriotic image and send them to Flags Across the Nation. They'll be made into quilts for troops, she said.

She also suggested volunteering at a veterans hospital, and proudly displaying the American flag as ways to observe the day.

For those with a competitive streak, Flags Across the Nation is hosting a patriotic photo essay contest. Leading up to I Love America Day, entrants can upload their patriotic images to the group's Web site. Three prize winners will be selected from all of the entries. Additionally, 13 images, representing the original 13 colonies, will be selected and made into a photo quilt, Schwartz said.

"We think that's going to be a real easy thing to get a lot of people involved," she said.

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