Veteran James Howard remembers. And because he and others like him do, a memorial to American service members who lost their lives in the war on terror is now traveling the country.
The Fallen Heroes Memorial was on display in Tampa, Florida, Sunday before traveling to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia. The memorial has been in Tampa because of the Warrior Games, a Paralympic event for America’s wounded warriors.
The @WarriorGames remind us of the sacrifices our service members make to protect our freedoms. We encourage all visitors to take a moment to see the beautiful flag on the @tampariverwalk made entirely of dog tags from fallen soldiers. We are forever grateful for their service. pic.twitter.com/zPbbZXv7or
— Tampa Convention Center (@TheTampaCC) June 26, 2019
The memorial was competed last year on Memorial Day.
“It speaks for itself. When you see it, it’s large and it’s powerful,” Howard said after the flag was completed, according to WTVR.
Howard founded a non-profit group called Veterans and Athletes United and made the construction of the traveling memorial one of his most important projects.
The massive traveling flag, which is broken down into sections when it goes on the road, is 28 feet wide by six feet tall and “symbolizes the shape of the flag when draped on a fallen service members casket,” the VAU website said.
The flag’s construction is unique.
“It is designed out of the close to 7000 dog tags of all those who have fallen in the War on Terror. There are 50 gold stars honoring all gold star families nationwide. Displayed in front of the flag is a battle field cross sculpted from mahogany wood by female veteran artist Alicia Dietz,” VAU said.
Veterans & Athletes United’s Fallen Heroes Memorial…with close to 7,000 dog tags from soldiers that gave their lives for our country. Thankful for their service. #woundedwarriors pic.twitter.com/WffPnQD7hh
— Anthony Dougherty 🏴☠️ (@AnthDougherty) June 27, 2019
Howard said Americans should never forget those who fell for freedom.
“There’s that quote, you die twice in this world. The first time physically when you pass away and then the last time when someone speaks your name. So we hope these names will never be forgotten for the rest of our lives,” Howard said.
“They’ll always be with me, everywhere I go, they are a part of me,” Howard said.
Gold Star Mother Sonja Stoeckli, whose son, Kyle, was killed in Afghanistan in 2013 at the age of 21, praised Howard for his dedication to see the project through.
“I’m almost overwhelmed with all of the work he put into this. It’s truly amazing. It’s beautiful,” she said.
In June, the group used its Facebook page to send out a Flag Day message.
“As we all take pride in celebrating this flag day and hoisting those flags high across this great country, let us remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy our freedoms. A Heavy price paid to keep this country free and flying under one flag,” the group posted.
The traveling flag will be in Richmond and Alexandria, Virginia, for several days in September, before coming to Jacksonville, Florida, from Sept. 17 through Sept. 19. The flag will be in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 27 through Sept. 29 and Guilford, Connecticut, on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4.
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