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Waves of support

Profile image for By Megan Gray-Hatfield
By Megan Gray-Hatfield

Club’s flag program gives boost to ailing resident

Terry Shaw grew more and more excited as he saw American flags being put out on Rolling Hills Circle recently as part of the Denton Morning Rotary Club’s holiday flag program.

“He could sit at the window and watch those flags wave for hours,” Deborah Shaw said of her husband, a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Terry Shaw’s last few years in the Air Force were difficult, his wife said. On Oct. 9, 2005, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and was told he had six months to live. After radiation treatments, the Shaw family was told there was no longer a sign of cancer, and he retired as a captain in 2008.

“Having been diagnosed with melanoma on his back in ’97, with that kind of cancer, it really doesn’t ever go away,” Deborah Shaw said.

Three years after his initial diagnosis, her husband was showing signs of a diminishing mental capacity, Deborah Shaw said. By 2010, the once-active veteran who had flown nearly 5,000 hours was completely bedridden.

He is now 61 and suffers from gliosis, a condition in which scar tissue affects the central nervous system.

Some days are better than others, Deborah Shaw said, and when something brings her husband excitement, she cherishes the moment, which encouraged her to write a letter of thanks to the Rotary Club.

“I didn’t expect anything back from it [writing the letter]. Terry’s parents were in the Lions Club and they did the same thing on holidays and I knew it was a volunteer effort,” Deborah Shaw said. “I wanted them to know what they were doing was appreciated.”

After receiving the letter, club members went to the Shaw home and placed an additional four flags out front to show their appreciation for Terry Shaw’s service.

“The letter meant a lot to all of our Rotary Club members who volunteer to put out the flags,” Brian Glenn, an executive board member, said.

The flag program started 20 years ago to support local and international service projects. Anyone who donates $40 can have a flag put up on five holidays a year — Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day.

Member Bill Heidemann said the flag program is what initially drew him to the club six years ago.

“Doing something patriotic and showing appreciation to one another is just another form of giving back,” said Heidemann, a former Marine who fought in Vietnam in 1965. “As a veteran, you really respect the flag, and I am glad so many have taken an interest in supporting the program.”

In 2012, Glenn said, the club split the program geographically with the Denton Noon Rotary Club. The noon club took over downtown and north Denton, while the morning club concentrated on Interstate 35E and southern Denton.

The morning club now sets up 1,400 flags each holiday and members of the noon club put out at least 300, group members said.

Deborah Shaw described what the group did as “amazing” and “unexpected.”

For the Shaws, Monday brought not only four additional flags in the yard for Terry Shaw to admire, but also a folded flag, presented to the veteran by Junior ROTC cadets from Denton High School.

“He loves flags, and no matter what, they still always get his attention,” Deborah Shaw said.

MEGAN GRAY-HATFIELD can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.