Student's 'reminder of home' provides comfort in Sweden
The Stars and Stripes
occupies a place of honor in Mark Gregory's dorm room at the
Swedish Institute of Agricultural Science.
By Tom Campbell
In August, Dan Gregory, a southern Indiana farmer, helped
his son Mark pack for an extended trip to Sweden, where Mark would pursue
a Purdue master's degree in agricultural economics at the Swedish Institute
of Agricultural Science.
As a guest columnist for his hometown newspaper, the
Loogootee Tribune, the father wrote about a particularly poignant
and patriotic moment:
"There it was lying amidst his books, clothes
and other personal effects. The one thing that son Mark had laid out
for his trip to Sweden that made me really think. It was the American
flag. I remember commenting to Barb that I felt better seeing that flag
going with him. He had squeezed enough money out of his college budget
to buy a new one and now it was lying there ready to go with him.
Bright stripes of red and white, the deep blue background
with 50 stars, the full-sized kind. He wanted to hang it on his wall
while he was in Sweden to remind him of home. He asked me to help him
weigh his luggage. He was only allowed 120 pounds on the plane for his
year and a half away. It was close; he needed to pare the weight down
a few pounds."
The flag stayed.
In his small apartment in Uppsala, north of Stockholm,
Mark Gregory followed the events of Sept. 11 on the Internet. He had
worked as an intern for Sen. Richard Lugar in Washington during the
summer. He couldn't help but wonder if all of the people he met and
all of the friends he made were safe. Being so far away from home just
made it worse.
"Being away while all this happened is a little
strange," he says. "In a way, I felt like I should come home."
Gregory and other American students got together with
their counselor and talked about the events. He says he now spends up
to 90 minutes each day on the Internet following the news and current
events. Over his shoulder, as he works at his computer, hangs the large
American flag. The red, white and blue banner dominates his one-bedroom
When the shock and the enormity of what happened finally
wore off, Mark responded in the only way he could.
He slid the floor lamp behind the flag he and his father
had so carefully packed back in August.
Somehow, the dim bulb made the flag brighter, more colorful.
And somehow, the small gesture, as insignificant as it may seem, made
Gregory feel better. Back on the family farm in Loogootee, you can bet
Dan Gregory felt better, too.