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Homemade homecoming

Dad builds flagpole for son serving in Iraq
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Pfc. Todd Percival will be going back to active duty in Iraq with memories of a special sundown ceremony on a rural hillside outside Auburn. Percival, 25, returns to Iraq this week after two weeks' leave. Along with a surfing magazine or two and some pictures of home to show his 101st Airborne buddies, he'll carry along thoughts of a memorable flag-raising. Percival raised the Stars and Stripes on a flagpole his father and friends had constructed as a surprise for him on his return to the California foothills. With the red, white and blue raised 35 feet above him in front of his family's house, Percival took a few steps back, stiffened and saluted the flag. Then he joined the small gathering of friends and family in a pledge of allegiance. Percival's father, Brian, said he saw the pole and the ceremony as more than just a father's effort to honor a son in the military. It's not about him or me, Brian Percival said. It's about every small town, about every place where there's someone next door or down the street serving their country. Family friend Bob Bergquist helped weld three sections of steel pipe and then sink it solidly into the foothills soil and rock in front of the Percival house. I thought it was a good patriotic thing to do and didn't hesitate one bit to help, Bergquist said. It'll outlive our lifetimes. Todd Percival, a geology major at California State University, Sacramento before signing up for the service 18 months ago, returns this week to Balad, Iraq, a four-hour drive north of Baghdad. He's been stationed there since September, escorting convoys and guarding facilities. The journey back takes about two-and-a-half days. The surfing magazines are bound for the hands of friends and the photos of home “ and the flag-raising “ will be shared. He'll also take back the warmth of a gathering on a hillside that reminded him why he enlisted. This is why I do it, for the people I care about, Todd said. When I joined there were so many things like it that I took for granted. Like sitting with my family at the table and talking, or hanging out with my brother in the barn and talking about cars. Those things are highlights now. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment at auburnjournal.com.