In the northwest corner of Illinois lies a small town called Stockton. It is an area of rolling green farmland and timber and years ago it was home to my grandparents who lived in a small double wide on the edge of town. Grandpa Ehredt worked in the Kraft Cheese Factory toiling away with a gimpy hip 10 to 12 hours a day in a building which has long since closed down. It was also the home of Sergeant Andrew Lancaster who was killed August 11, 2007 in Iraq. Andrew Lancaster graduated from Freeport High School in 2002. He was a standout football and basketball player. I had been officiating those 2 sports back in the late 90s through 2001 and had officiated Freeport High School games. Fate is never determined for we cannot control it. Perhaps Andrew Lancaster lined up on my side of the field and made a great tackle. Perhaps I called a foul on him on the court or quite possibly I may have handed him the ball. Irregardless, fate would have it that I would bear his flag on Montana Sate Road 200 and place it at milepost 23, his would be the 700th flag placed on my journey. His name and flag overlook a beautiful valley and the Clark Fork river. I suspect his eyes were looking down upon me from the hillside. I believe too that Andrew Lancaster was an honorable, compassionate and determined young man with great integrity. In a time when sacrifice seems so outdated he faced hardships we cannot begin to conceive, as do so many others, and risked everything to protect this country. Words are not often eloquent enough to bear the gratitude afforded so many who have been taken from us. In time the green grass around his flag here in Montana will turn to brown and then the snows will come but in my eyes he will be there on the hillside linked arm in arm with those next to him whose flags are but a mile away. They will continue to protect us for all time and will not be forgotten.