A pole honors a pastor with a Purple Heart

The Rev. Richard Jenkins has some fine neighbors in Newport, Minnesota.

Jenkins, who was wounded in the Vietnam War, says he was treated pretty rudely when he returned from Vietnam, a war for which he didn’t volunteer and had no choice but to go. He had a lot of anger, he tells Pioneer Press reporter Mary Divine.

Fast forward to 2014, when two neighbors put a flagpole up in his yard so he can fly not only the American flag, but one that honors those wounded in the war.

“With everything that he went through, this is nothing. This is just saying ‘Thank you.’ He was fighting for the country,” Jason Lange tells the PiPress,”fighting for our freedom.”

“This was a complete surprise to me,” Jenkins said. “I come out on the deck, look out on the flag and see it open up. I walk down here, and now — like these people fixing the roads — they know I’m a Purple Heart recipient.”

“I have great neighbors,” Jenkins said. “We all laugh and joke. There’s good camaraderie. Even though we are the only people of color who live in this area, I feel very at home. When I came here, I was a stranger and I worried how I would cope, but they have opened their hearts to me.”

When Williams and Lange told Jenkins about their plans to put up a flagpole for him, he told them they were going to make him cry.

“That was the idea,” Lange said. “We wanted to make you cry.”

The men joke about their gift: “He hasn’t gotten the bill yet,” Williams said. “We’re still trying to figure out labor,” added Lange.

Jenkins said he has been telling everyone about Williams and Lange.

“I really appreciate these guys, what they have done for me and my wife and my family, because many neighborhoods you don’t have that,” he said. “I have the best neighbors.”

Jenkins says there have been times he’s been ashamed of his service, but he says the flag brings him honor.

Related: Money restored to Military Funeral Honors program (Duluth News Tribune).