CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (8/10/2012) - Laura Froehlich, an Air
Force veteran and dedicated patriot, was known as the “Flag Mama.”
For more than 10 years, when the nation called for Marines and
sailors to depart March Air Reserve Base to deploy to Iraq or
Afghanistan, she was on call to say goodbye and greet them upon
return. Without fail.
Air Force Master Sgt. Jonathan Gaygay, services superintendent with 163rd Reconnaissance Wing and Cpl. Seth Utsler, Marine with the Special Operations Training Group, carry the flags to be presented during a memorial for Laura Froehlich at the Riverside National Cemetery Aug. 10,
2012. For more than 10 years, when the nation called for Marines and sailors to depart March Air Reserve Base to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, she was on call to say goodbye and greet them upon return. Photo by by USMC Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
Several hundred military men and women in uniform
gathered to repay their respect during her memorial at the
Riverside National Cemetery Aug. 10.
“The troops knew
I would be there,” Froehlich said during an interview as
part of the ceremony's video presentation.
Marines, airmen and
family members remembered Froehlich for the devotion she
showed to America's military service members during the
decade before her death Aug. 1 at age 63. She was chairwoman
of the Moreno Valley Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs
Committee and backed by countless volunteers who assisted in
providing millions of sandwiches, snacks and thousands of
hugs to departing and returning troops.
and sailors were greeted upon return from numerous
“From the opening moments of this
conflict, it was her mission to make sure each and every
young soldier that passed through hangar number 385 would
know that there was nation behind them who prayed for them
as they departed and rejoiced over them upon their return,”
said Air Force Chaplain Col. Steve O'Brien, 4th Air Force
chaplain at March Air Reserve Base, Calif.
video, Freohlich recalled being present during more than
4,000 flights in and out of March Air Reserve Base. Among
the more than 2,000 attendees at the ceremony were hundred
of Marines who had met and hugged her numerous times.
Approximately 100 of those Marines served and currently
serve with I Marine Expeditionary Force.
person once said, ‘the ultimate expression of generosity is
not in giving of what you have, but in giving of who you
are,'” said Lt. General Thomas D. Waldhauser,, commanding
general of I MEF and he Marine Corps Forces Central Command.
“Most certainly, Laura did just this by bidding farewell or
greeting those service members departing or returning from
Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Marines recalled seeing the
“Flag Mama” in patriotic outfits and eager to hug every
Marine and sailor coming off the plane. She is the founder
of hangar 385, which is a place she created for the troops
to relax, eat snacks and watch movies.
all the Marines love Laura,” Waldhauser said. “Dedicating
herself to caring for our service members, she invested
freely both her time and attention, which was nothing short
of devotion. The simple, yet significant impact she had on
the lives of thousands over the years cannot be overstated.”
In place of a guest book for attendees to sign, the
family displayed large photographs of her with Marines,
family, and former President George W. Bush during his visit
to March Air Reserve Base in 2004. Thousands of guests
signed the photos, which are to be displayed throughout the
base and the family's home.
More photos available in frame below
By USMC Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
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