Ecumenical Brunch Raises Funds For Operation Fallen Flags
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
October 6, 2022
ROCKFORD—Fellowship, flags, fundraising, faith and fun highlighted the 24th annual Ecumenical Benefit Brunch, held Oct. 1 at the St. Bernadette Parish Center. The event, back after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, is a joint effort by the Rockford Deanery Council of Catholic Women and the North Conference of Northern Illinois Synod Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Through donations and a silent auction, this year’s brunch raised about $2,000 for Operation Fallen Flags, a program in which younger veterans replace torn and tattered American flags across northern Illinois. Operation Fallen Flags was founded by local Vietnam veteran Nick Parnello, keynote speaker at the brunch. 
Parnello is involved in numerous veterans projects in the Rockford area including founding the LZ Peace Memorial in 1984 and co-founding the Vietnam Veterans Honor Society in 1989. He is also a survivor of Agent Orange-induced cancer.
“Vietnam was a war that left our nation divided for years, but some things can’t be doubted,” he said. “It took courage to serve in Vietnam, the sacrifices were real and every one of you who went deserves our country’s respect and honor.”
“There’s something to be said about the patriotism of that generation,” Parnello said. “Many of our fathers served in World War II and we saw Vietnam as a way to do our part for the freedoms we enjoy.” 
Rallying Vietnam-era veterans into service projects which benefit the community, Parnello said, provides purpose and healing for those suffering from military related PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Operation Fallen Flags is Parnello’s latest veteran-led service. 
“There have been so many miracles surrounding Operation Fallen Flags,” he said. “After I got the bucket lift truck, a bunch of us veterans sanded it and we got the painting, vinyl signage, repairs, and detailing all donated by area business.”
Parnello and fellow veterans use the “Glory Truck” and its bucket lift to replace worn American flags with new ones. They also take the truck to local organizations and events as a way to promote patriotism. 
“We replaced a flag for a World War II veteran one day and when we raised the new flag, that World War II vet had tears in his eyes,” Parnello said. “The goal of working on the Glory Truck detail is to provide honor and healing for all veterans young and old.”
In all the work Parnello and his fellow veterans do, he recognizes one truth above all others, “God does have a plan for our lives and He does for us what we can’t do for ourselves.”
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