FREEPORT (AP) – In terms of patriotic zeal, some people wave the flag, some people wrap themselves in the flag, and then there are people like Elaine Greene and Joann Miller who actually wear the flag.

The women, who have waved flags at least once a week on Main Street for three years, have made it their mission to show the Stars and Stripes to the point they discarded their clothes that weren’t red, white and blue.

It all started with the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

With tears streaming down her face, Greene scrawled “God Bless America” on a piece of cardboard. A passing motorist honked. That evolved into the weekly flag-waving ritual that continues three years later.

“If everyone could take a moment of their time and remember how they felt the day after that terrible tragedy … if they could remember and hang onto that just a little bit, we’d be a stronger nation,” Greene says. “Our goal is to keep the American spirit alive.”

They’re continuing the tradition on Saturday on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that claimed almost 3,000 lives in New York City, Washington, D.C., and in a field in Pennsylvania.

Greene and Miller don’t want people to forget the horror of the attacks or the bravery of the New York City firefighters. And people shouldn’t forget the sacrifice made by soldiers, either, they say.

While the flag-waving started as a form of therapy, it has been a tonic for others as well. They’re regularly approached by people who’ve expressed their approval and appreciation.

Soldiers have sent them flags from Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The flag ladies responded by redoubling their efforts.

They’ve driven to the Bangor International Airport countless times to greet soldiers leaving or returning from the Middle East. They hand out sunburst-shaped coins so the soldiers can keep a little sunshine with them on dark days.

“Sometimes we pull all nighters. You sleep in your car for an hour or so while you wait for the next flight to go in,” Greene said.

At their home, the Stars and Stripes flies outside and a homemade “God Bless America” sign is tacked to a maple tree.

A recent day found them and a friend, Carmen Footer, in their sunroom signing the nearly 1,000 Christmas cards they plan to send to each of the Maine National Guard soldiers serving in Iraq.

Greene, 59, wore a shirt with the flag on it, along with blue jeans and red, white and blue sneakers. Miller, 67, wore jeans along with a red shirt festooned with stars.

Their terrier, Lady Liberty, buzzed around happily.

If this display of unabashed patriotism seems extreme, it wasn’t always so.

Greene became a changed person as she watched on television as the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed. “I thought I was a good American before 9-11. But I wasn’t. I was taking it for granted,” she said.

Waving a flag once a week may not seem like a big deal, but it is for Greene. She suffers from Crohn’s Disease, chronic pain from past car accidents, and extreme joint pain.

Miller, a retired physician, said Greene sometimes struggles but she has never missed the flag-waving ritual.

Every Tuesday morning -the Sept. 11 attacks happened on a Tuesday – Greene and Miller make their way to Main Street with 3-by-5 flags in tow. They also do it on the 11th of each month. Regardless of the weather, they wave their flags for an hour or two as cars stream past.

Penny Robinson of Freeport often sees the pair when she runs errands. They’re waving their flags in bitter cold winter weather and on hot summer days when Freeport is often overrun by tourists.

“I admire their perseverance,” Robinson said.

They’ve been joined by New York firefighters, soldiers and their families, even U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Motorists toot their horns and children wave from school buses.

Only one woman who regularly yells “Bush lied to you!” seems to object to their weekly patriotic display.

Greene and Miller are registered Republicans, but they say their flag-waving is not a political statement. Sometimes they agree with the Republicans, sometimes the Democrats, and oftentimes neither. “They’re both so far off, they can’t see the middle,” Greene said of the major parties.

The pair have no plans to stop.

They’ll keep it going as long as they feel they’re doing some good, Greene said. After all, there’s no room in her life to do things halfway.

“In life, if you’re going to do something, don’t do it in half measures,” Greene said. “And when you think there’s nothing else to give, then you dig a little deeper.”


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