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Citizens care packages lead to flag from Afghanistan mission

Jason McCollum, President of Citizens National Bank, and Sargeant Derek Vollmer raise the flag outside of the bank along State Highway 34. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
From left, McCollum, Sergeant Vollmer and CNB Executive Vice President Kathy Henry proundly display the flag Vollmer brought back after his last mission overseas. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Citizens National Bank in Park Rapids recently received an American flag that was flown on a night combat mission over Afghanistan. Crewmembers of Bravo Company 2-211th General Aviation Support Battalion in a CH-47F Chinook helicopter, "Nightlong" aircraft flew the flag out of Jalalabad to a small outpost on Feb. 19, 2017.

The flag, which was given to CNB as a thank you for care packages they had made and sent in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, was raised to full staff in Park Rapids over the Independence Day holiday.

Crew Chief Sergeant Derek Vollmer's mother Brenda has been an employee at CNB for nearly four years.

"They surprised me one morning in one of our all employee meetings with four of these huge care packages that were going out to him. Of course he shared with his squad and other people," Brenda said. "I told him that he needed to make sure he gave a thank you, you know how boys are, they don't like to write thank you notes."

According to Brenda, the crewmembers always bring a flag along when they fly a mission, and after their last mission the flag was brought back to CNB.

For Derek, who is based in St. Cloud, this was his first nine month mission overseas. He joined the National Guard in 2011 after graduating from Brown College, and attended base camp in North Carolina.

"He has always wanted to be in the service. Right out of high school he wanted to join and I wouldn't let him," Brenda explained, adding that Derek would talk war stories with her father. "I just knew somewhere down the line he would end up wanting to go."

According to Brenda, Derek was very appreciative that his mother's colleagues, someone other than a family member, had thought of him and taken the time to send him and his crewmembers the care packages.

"To work at a bank that not only values their employees but values their employees' families as well, that they thought about doing this and surprised me, it meant a lot," she added. "It meant a lot to my son too. To have them do that extra, that was pretty special."

Staff at CNB wanted to fly the flag over the Fourth of July but due to its sentimental value, the flag will at some point be put on display inside the bank.

"He thought that was really cool that they wanted to fly the flag for the Fourth of July," Brenda said. "I'm sure he'll get called over again and I guess I'll just have to pray that much harder."