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  • Manny Crisostomo /

    John Vinson and his wife, Nancy, adjust the flags that fly in front of their home in Acampo. Vinson said the 9/11 attacks stirred his sense of patriotism. On recent anniversaries he has mounted hundreds of American flags in a field in West Sacramento.

  • Manny Crisostomo /

    THE PATRIOT: John Vinson, 57 Acampo

Reflections of 9/11: The patriot

Published: Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 4X

John Vinson, 57, Acampo

"Prior to the horrendous attacks, I was an average guy with no real sense of patriotism or national pride," said Vinson. "I didn't think much what it means to be an American."

The events of 9/11 "shook me to the core and jarred me from my history of complacency."

On the afternoon of that historic day, Vinson impulsively grabbed his American flag, which typically came out of storage only on the Fourth of July, and headed to a freeway overpass near downtown Sacramento. He began waving the flag at oncoming traffic, and drivers signaled their support by honking their horns.

Later that week, Vinson donated blood for the first time, and made a contribution to the national 9/11 memorial fund. "But that seemed like such a small offering for such a huge tragedy," he said. "I resolved to do something to ensure that the attack would never be forgotten and that my fellow Americans who lost their lives would be honored forever."

The following year, Vinson, a contractor, bought more American flags and fastened them to the same overpass. He sprayed two bedsheets with the words "America Will Never Forget" and hung those out as well.

"Each year, my patriotism grew," he said, and his displays became more elaborate.

On recent anniversaries he has mounted hundreds of flags in a field in West Sacramento. The site, at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and South River Road, has become a healing place for hundreds of people, and in 2009 the West Sacramento City Council honored it with a proclamation.

Vinson will display the flags at the same location once again this year, even though he has moved to Acampo, about 30 miles south of Sacramento.

Outside his new home, he will decorate a pasture with the Stars and Stripes.

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Read more articles by Cynthia Hubert

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