CONWAY -- A veterans' group coordinating the tornado cleanup in Faulkner County presented the nation's flag Wednesday to the parents of two young brothers killed in the storm one month ago.
Daniel and April Smith accepted the folded flag, wet from the day's rain, in honor of their sons Cameron, 9, and Tyler, 7, from the group's leader, Chad Reynolds, a Navy and Army veteran from Conway.
The flag was the one that had been flying at the Conway headquarters of Team Rubicon's Operation Rising Eagle, named after the local schools' mascot in both Mayflower and Vilonia, which were hard-hit by the April 27 tornado that killed 16 people, 12 in Faulkner County.
With the ceremony, the name of the headquarters, outside the Home Depot store on Elsinger Boulevard, was changed from Eagles' Nest to FOB Smith. FOB stands for Forward Operating Base, said Wes Craiglow, a Conway resident and Iraq veteran who is the liaison for the cleanup effort.
The ceremony was in keeping with the military tradition of renaming combat bases after a fallen service member Craiglow said.
April Smith, seated in a wheelchair beside her husband, held his left hand tightly with both of her hands as she talked with reporters, her voice halting. Both parents were seriously injured when the tornado destroyed their Vilonia home.
Small scars were visible on April's face as she talked about how she and Daniel have gotten through the weeks since their sons' deaths.
April, who leads the deaf ministry for ThatChurch.com in Conway, said her memories sustain her, as does her faith in God "because I know where they are." Standing nearby, a woman used sign language to communicate to a few of the people present for the ceremony.
"She can lean on me, and I can lean on her," Daniel said. "It's the most [awful] thing that anybody could possibly go through."
"You want them to be remembered,"April said as the flag lay in her lap. "This is a beautiful way for them to be remembered."
The Smiths, who were hospitalized after the tornado, are living in Sherwood for now. They plan to rebuild but not in the same place. When they do, they'll have a shrine to their sons and the flag will be in a frame, Daniel said.
Metro on 05/29/2014