POCAHONTAS - Like many presents, the American flag Lillian McCartan received on her 95th birthday in January came as a complete surprise.
It was from her grandson, Air Force Capt. Mark C. McCartan, who had it with him when he flew over American troops in Afghanistan on Nov. 24, 2011.
The Pocahontas woman decided the flag was so special it had to be shared with her fellow residents of Arlington Place and the rest of the community.
Her desire to share the flag was fulfilled Wednesday evening when Iowa Army National Guard soldiers raised it on a new flagpole in front of the senior living center during a ceremony attended by about 50 people.
''I think it's wonderful,'' Lillian McCartan said after the ceremony. ''I'm so happy.''
She said Wednesday's event was the first time she saw the flag outside of the box her grandson delivered it in.
She added that she was pleased by what she considered a big turnout for the ceremony.
She also said she was very happy that three Iowa Army National Guard soldiers participated. They were Staff Sgt. Taylor Olson, Pfc. Amanda Cortez and Pvt. Josh Skirvin of G Company, 334th Brigade Support Battalion based in Storm Lake.
Mark McCartan, the pilot, is the son of Pocahontas native Dick McCartan and his wife, Mickie. He grew up in Alaska and attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. His grandmother attended his academy graduation, which she called ''one of the most thrilling things in my life.''
In 2011, he was assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. He piloted a KC-10 Extender, which is an aircraft that refuels other military planes in the air.
He came to Pocahontas for his grandmother's Jan. 17 birthday and presented the flag to her. Accompanying the flag was a certificate which states ''This flag represents the commitment of the men and women of the armed forces, the global war on terrorism, and the thousands who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fields of Pennsylvania 10 years earlier on Sept. 11, 2011.''
During Wednesday's ceremony, Pocahontas Mayor Dick Gruber described how the plan to display the flag came together. He said Lillian McCartan felt the flag should not be sitting in a box.
''She had a better idea,'' Gruber said.
According to Gruber, she asked Lauri Fulkerth, the manager of Arlington Place, if she could buy a flagpole to fly it on. The mayor said Fulkerth was so impressed with the idea that she bought the flagpole. Then Fulkerth enlisted the other members of her Rotary Club to help put it up.
''As the story spread amongst the tenants at Arlington Place, it was decided that this was such a great honor for Lillian that they should have a flag raising ceremony,'' Gruber said.
After Gruber's remarks, Cortez accepted the flag from Lillian McCartan. Cortez and Skirvin then raised it to the top of the new flag pole.
Members of the Pocahontas Rotary Club led the singing of ''God Bless America.''
The ceremony concluded with a flyover by three small planes.