SPOKANE, Wash. — For 95-year-old Jerry Weed, the flag of the 82nd Airborne Division was right where it belonged on the Fourth of July – overlooking his son’s neighborhood, waving along with the American colors.
Bill Weed, Jerry’s son, erected a 25-foot flagpole in his front yard in honor of his father, a former paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division that participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy just more than 70 years ago.
Four generations of the family gathered in the lawn of the north Spokane home Friday to watch the flag be raised as “Proud to be an American” rang from Bill Weed’s truck in the driveway.
“Today is your day, dad,” Bill Weed said.
Jerry Weed was born in 1919 and raised in Spokane, where he attended both Lewis and Clark and Gonzaga Prep high schools. When he heard about Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bill said his father quit his job the next day and joined the Army.
As part of the 82nd Airborne, Jerry Weed made 33 jumps during the war, including four combat jumps. He spent four Fourth of July holidays overseas. When his son asked him how he spent those holidays, Jerry pretended to shoot a gun.
He had a hard time expressing what the erected flagpole meant to him, saying simply, “I love the flag,” while fighting back tears.
“Everybody is pretty proud of him,” said Noele Emmons, Jerry’s granddaughter.
The Fourth of July holds special significance for the whole family, she said, because of what Jerry has done for his country.
After the war, Jerry Weed moved back to Spokane to be a salesman. He owned a Pepsi distributorship in the 1950s. His wife Irene died the week before Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, and he never remarried.
Jerry has more than 40 grandkids. While he was happy with how many family members witnessed his flags being raised, he said he wished he could share the moment with all of his grandkids.
Bill said his dad always has enjoyed fishing and hanging out at the Big Sky Tavern in Hillyard.
After the flags were raised, the family went to Silver Lake to celebrate the Fourth of July together.
During his childhood, Bill said his father did not talk much about the war, and it wasn’t until he became an adult that Jerry opened up. Bill realized how much his service meant to him and has since taken every opportunity possible to thank him.
Bill’s son, Tyler, recently was promoted to Specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Jerry said that after all these years, his memory of D-Day is as clear as ever.
“I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I remember D-Day,” he said.
With the possible exception of Sundays, when a Seahawks 12th Man flag might wave, Bill Weed said his father’s flags aren’t going anywhere.
“He’ll know this is going to be here when he’s gone,” Bill Weed said.