Sandusky area residents gave a World War II veteran a special 96th birthday.
Walter Samko awoke Saturday morning to find 213 flags lining his driveway, sidewalk and surrounding the tree in his front yard. There was also left by the tree one Uncle Sam gnome holding a flag.
About 10 friends and strangers alike were in his driveway to sing Happy Birthday as retired firefighter Harold Roane played the tune on his harmonica.
“Its wonderful. It sure made my best day,” Samko said as the party moved inside to his living room. “All the wonderful friends and neighbors. Its amazing.”
Saturday June 14 is Samko's birthday. It is also Flag Day.
His daughter Penny Ann Samko Williams gave her dad an early gift the day before Fathers Day.
Samko, who joined the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, has complained for years that fewer and fewer people honor the flag, and even less put out flags on the combination Samko birthday/ Flag Day.
“That's the more honorable thing,” Samko said about the symbol of our country.
Williams put out a request on social media asking people to covertly plant flags after dark on Friday and before 10:30 Saturday morning along her father's driveway.
Samko has a hard time climbing down the stairs of his home but about 10 a.m., with his daughter at his side, Walter came out onto his porch.
Samko, excited about his 96th birthday, had gotten up early at 9 a.m. and dressed himself. A five-time cancer survivor, Stein Hospice normally helps him get up, dressed and ready for the day.
With a look of amazement, Samko smiled upon the people to wish him happy birthday and laughed in happiness.
His girlfriend Mae Comparette was also at his side.
More people would come in and out to wish Samko happy birthday throughout the day.
“People were outside planting flags and I am asleep,” Samko said unaware of the display of flags that had been growing outside throughout the night and morning.
Neighbor Bill Newman would shed blood, as he fell in his driveway and skinned his arm, to bring Samko a flag and a stove pipe silver birthday hat wrapped in the Stars and Strips.
Tera Fair, a waitress at The Lunch Box were Samko would always eat at, gave him birthday kisses and hugs.
“You're a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Fair sang.
It was proving to be a memorable day and not just for Samko.