Meadow Grove, Neb. (KTIV) -- Land of the free, because of the brave. It's a saying many of us have come to know over the years.
KTIV's Michaela Feldmann sat down with her uncle to learn about that life of service:
For most of my life, Brian Stewart was simply one thing to me: Uncle B.
The guy with the crazy jokes who was always playing a prank on someone. The guy, who spent most of my life in the service.
"When you see that flag go up, you are just so proud that, 'hey I'm a part of the United States'," said Brian Stewart.
Growing up I remember hearing about all the cool places my uncle got to live from California to North Carolina, to Japan. But, I don't think I really realized why he was there or what he was doing for the military. That was until Sept. 11, 2001.
"That made everybody angry when 911 hit," said Stewart.
For me, 9/11 was hard to understand: I was only in 1st grade. But, seeing the towers fall, is something I and the rest of the country will never forget.
"Everybody was wanting to sign up and do their part," said Stewart.
Including my Uncle B. On Sept. 10, 2002, he reenlisted in the army. The ceremony, held at Arlington National Cemetery near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
My uncle originally wanted it to be held at the Pentagon but was told he couldn't because of security concerns surrounding the anniversary memorial ceremonies.
In 2005, he shipped off to Iraq, serving there for a year.
"I had 13 people underneath me and that's when we went over to Iraq. Had a post office over there and we served all of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait for mail service," said Stewart.
But it wasn't until about a month ago, that I truly found out about that life of service.
For 30 years my uncle dedicated his life to the Marines and Army.
Serving 13 of those in the Marine Corp, 3 in the Army Reserves and 14 years in the Army.
This project allowed me to ask those questions. From why he first signed up:
"I got a speeding ticket, and I lost my license, and when the judge pounded the gavel and said a $360 fine and as soon as we got back in the car, dad said what service do you want to go into?" said Stewart.
To why he stuck around:
"The military life was a better place because it grew me up, made me a better man, a family man," said Stewart. "I wish I could go back again. I had a good ride the whole 30 years."
To what that time in Iraq was like.
"We were fortified on a base and there was towers on either corner that protected the base," said Stewart. "But you always had your insurgents, they would lob mortars over and you just, if you were religious at all you just had to trust in God that one wouldn't land where you were at."
And while he's spent most of his life, telling me how proud he is to be my uncle, it's me who's proud. Proud to have an uncle who stood up to fight for me, my family, my country, and my freedom. Someone who sacrificed some years with his own family, so we could be safe.
When I asked him what it means to see that American flag fly.
"Stand up, salute it, and it just gives you chills when someone sings the national anthem or that bugle plays, it just makes you proud to see that flying," said Stewart.
Stewart retired from the army as a Master Sergeant. He said his motto, and what he lives by, is God, family, and country.
All this week during News 4 at Six, we will bring you stories with and about veterans and about Siouxland Freedom Park. Those stories will lead to our half-hour special on Saturday called "Siouxland Freedom Park: History and Healing."
KTIV is raising money to help complete the interpretive center at the park. If you would like to donate, you can learn how here.