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Stars and Stripes, patio edition

Robert Birdsall, left, and Russ Sattler trace stars on cement blocks to complete a patio painted as a United States flag. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)1 / 5
Ashley Birdsall, who laid a patio for her dad for Father's Day, wrote this inspirational message in the cement. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)2 / 5
Birdsall's friend Ray Peterson paints the patio in red, white and blue. (Photo submitted)3 / 5
Robert Birdsall, right, holds a star stencil while he discusses painting a flag image onto a patio with Russ Sattler. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)4 / 5
First Lt. Ashley Birdsall in military and civilian garb. (Photos submitted)5 / 5

On Skyline Parkway, a father is working to finish a patio-sized flag in time for an Independence Day surprise for his 26-year-old daughter serving in the military.

On a warm summer evening in June, Robert Birdsall and his friend Russ Sattler knelt with chalk and a cutout to stencil stars on blue-painted concrete blocks. The blocks form a patio which will serve as the field of a flag in Birdsall's front yard of a modest house.

As the men worked, Birdsall's daughter, 1st Lt. Ashley Birdsall, was on duties with the Minnesota Army National Guard in Death Valley. She is expected to visit her dad for Independence Day. And Dad wants the completed flag to be a surprise.

Ashley, a 2008 East High School graduate, now works in the Twin Cities as a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness. She also plays hockey with the Minnesota Whitecaps.

Ashley laid the cement blocks down as a Father's Day gift.

As the men worked, a neighbor walked by the yard and said, "I think it's pretty artistic."

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at