On a park bench in Hamburg's City Park the charity fundraiser for Our Military Kids sat a woman in a white, summery blouse wearing a rather unusual necklace—dog tags.
She introduced herself as Danelle Hein-Snider of Council Bluffs, and began relating the story of one of the four Fremont County soldiers depicted on the Freedom Rock.
Charles John Hein, a 1966 graduate of Sidney High School, died in Vietnam on May 6, 1970, a member of the Fifth Special Forces. As he and his unit were packing their gear to go out on maneuvers, a phosphorous grenade fell on the concrete floor and cracked. Seeing that the fuse had been detonated, John, as he was known, grabbed the grenade, bellowing a warning to his fellow soldiers, and rushed for the door. The grenade blew up in his hands.
John was airlifted to a hospital and died two days later. But because of his swift response, none of his team members was injured.
In the spotlight at the July 8 event were Iowa Senator Joni Ernst and 105 motorcyclists, who rode their Harley-Davidsons from Pacific Junction to Hamburg to raise money for the charity organization Our Military Kids. It was Ernst's first time visiting the Freedom Rock.
But for Danelle, the focus was not so much on the senator. More meaningful to her is that this was also her first time to see the Freedom Rock.
And the portrait of her brother, Charles J. Hein.
Her family has a long military tradition. Members of the family have fought in every war since the American Revolution. Her ancestors came to this country on the Mayflower.
Danelle Hein-Snider did talk with Joni Ernst for a few moments. Perhaps she told the senator about the string of birthday coincidences surrounding her brother's death: John died on his 22nd birthday. The letter from the army informing the family of his death was written on Danelle's birthday. It arrived on her mother's birthday. Charles John Hein was buried in Fremont County's Chambers Cemetery on his brother's birthday.
Hein-Snider is especially proud that Charles John Hein's track records at Sidney High still stand.
Something he said before he died serves as the inscription on his Freedom Rock portrait: “Do not grieve for me…I'm proud of my job and my outfit.” Danelle Hein-Snider is also proud of her brother—a pride that surpasses whatever sadness she still feels.