MASARYKTOWN — As they watched the American flag being raised in their front yard, Guy and Dian Stokey tried their best to choke back the tears. But it was tough.
All they could think about was what the fluttering Stars and Stripes represented in their hearts. Behind them on a table were photos of their children — Lisa, Margo and Andrew — all military veterans who decided that serving their country was both a duty and an honor.
But on Thursday, it was the Stokeys receiving the honors — a 20-foot flag pole and flag.
The couple's name was randomly chosen last week in a Veterans Day contest dreamed up by Hernando County Marine Corps veterans and brothers-in-law Bill Pierson and Robert Rogoski, hosts of a weekly live call-in program on WWJB-AM 1450 called The Military Appreciation Show.
Pierson and Rogoski arrived at the Stokeys house on Squirrel Prairie Road near the Pasco County line early Thursday morning to set the concrete base for the flagpole. A few hours later they returned to set up the pole.
For the Stokeys, it was a fitting decoration for their front yard, which is bedecked in banners from the Army and Air Force as well as a weathered American flag, which hangs from the ceiling of their porch.
"The flag has always had special meaning in our household," said Dian Stokey. "It stands for courage and honor. We're proud to fly it every day."
The Stokeys consider themselves passionate military parents. In 2006, Dian Stokey got national attention after staging a protest at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10209 in Spring Hill in response to U.S. Sen. John Kerry's infamous "stuck in Iraq" remark he made while giving a speech to students in California.
Stokey said she found Kerry's words hurtful to military veterans and their families. Kerry later apologized for the remark.
"These young people make great sacrifices for their country," she said. "They should be praised, never insulted."
All three of the Stokey's children served in Iraq in 2007.
Their oldest daughter, Lisa, 27 and a captain in the Air Force at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also served in Afghanistan, and has earned a master's degree in flight science and engineering.
Daughter Margo, 25, spent eight years in the Army, and is now in college in Lakeland studying to be dental hygienist.
Son, Andrew, 25, serves as an information specialist in the Army and is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Pierson said he was happy to see the Stokeys win the prize, which was donated by Lowe's Home Improvement in Brooksville.
"They are such great people," Pierson said. "It's nice to be able to do something positive for them."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org