We’ve had a wonderful time in the Big Easy this past week. We met so many amazing people and community leaders who went above and beyond to show their support for the Flag. Our message from the beginning has been one of unity. However, it has been all of you, the people we meet along the way, who have shown us what unity and humanity truly mean.
The trip had a flavorful beginning with a stop at Jaeger Restaurant where proprietor Allen Jaeger was excited to give us our first taste of New Orleans. When he heard about our mission to spread the Flag for Hope message, he was ecstatic to welcome us to Louisiana, cajun style! Not only did he give us dinner on the house, but the meal was a real New Orleans feast with catfish, char broiled oysters, jambalaya and shrimp with the heads still attached— so you know they were fresh! All was served with a heaping helping of true cajun hospitality. Allen’s business is third generation family owned and has been lost three times to hurricanes, including George and Katrina. But Allen and his family have persevered to save and restore the home they’ve created. Truly this entrepreneur is an example of the resilience and optimism that America was built on.
In the morning we headed off to cafe Morning Call, near City Park, to grab some of those delicious beignets and muffaletta we had heard so much about. From there we ventured into City Park tself, where we met so many new faces who were happy to contribute to the Flag for Hope mission. We added some adorably tiny handprints from local kids, out with their parents to enjoy the Louisiana sunshine and wonderful scenery of the park. The Flag is developing beautifully, and the addition of the white stripes is giving it a whole new look!
Our next stop was a special visit to the Family Barber Shop on Oak street. The barber shop still has an old school feel— as it should since Edwin Serpas Jr has owned and operated the store for several decades. He runs the shop with two other men, all of them retired military veterans. These men truly represent a piece of the beating heart of their community. Everyone knows the local barbershop can be one of the best places to find wisdom, and these gentleman did not disappoint! “Say I love you in the morning and at night. It only takes two seconds,” advised fellow owner Lynward “Buddy” Adams (94). We couldn’t agree more.
Our trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the local fire station. There, we met New Orleans Fire Department Captain Randy Joseph Cookmyer, who was pleased to contribute his impression to the Flag. We stayed outside the fire station for several hours and met an incredibly diverse group of travelers and residents alike. We encountered explorers, like Joseph Allen Raines who has backpacked more than 3,000 miles; families of veterans whose service they were eager to honor; and even young talent like traveling musician Anthony Cozza.
Our final stop on Sunday was to the Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries. There, we were privileged to meet the talented members of their choir and even witness a powerful performance which left us in awe. Their love and joy was contagious. We met Rev Thomas B. Watson, who commemorated the event by branding his bicycle with a handprint to match the Flag! Truly this is a vibrant community that we were lucky to share in. If we had our way, we would never leave!
Thank you, New Orleans, for being such a wonderfully welcoming, exciting, and beautiful place!