As a weekender, I do not subscribe to any of the daily newspapers upstate, so I had no advance notice of Sergeant Shawn Farrell’s homecoming, which happened on a Wednesday. But signs of it remained for days afterward.
The state road follows the diagonal of the valley from northeast to southwest. The first markers were the clusters of flags, thicker and more numerous even than on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, sprouting like red, white, and blue daffodils in front of stores and on lawns. Then, all the roadside reader boards, black letters on white backgrounds, that usually announce tractor pulls or hardware sales, instead carried unfamiliar messages. The driving eye, jogged by the first few, focused on the subsequent ones and registered the common sentiment, differently expressed: SGT. SHAWN FARRELL MISSED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. SGT. SHAWN FARRELL FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS. OUR LOCAL HERO SGT. SHAWN FARRELL. A talk with a friend and a search online told the story.