For those of you just coming on board, let me thank you for believing enough in our mission to take the time to log on and sign the petition. You are now participating in a legacy of gratitude never before attempted in our country’s history. Our inaugural year 2008 resonated throughout the country with thousands of supporters. A few highlights come to mind, including the May 26th unveiling of the Honor and Remember Flag, the national endorsements, the introduction of Congressional Bill H.R. 7111, the television exposure from Dennis Miller and Bill O’Reilly and the dozens of interviews I gave for radio and TV. In this short column, I cannot fully recap last year’s accomplishments, so I’ll leave it up to you to explore our past newsletters and blogs for the details.
In addition to all of the historic events, the most memorable moments for me occur when tears of gratitude come to the eyes of those who receive an Honor and Remember Flag in recognition of the sacrifice made by that family, whose loved one will never come home. We are privileged to be the pioneers of a national symbol of remembrance that provides Americans a tangible way to say thank you.
Last year we were able to present flags to many family representatives, such as Mrs. Hickey and Mrs. Carter-Krell, both of whom lost their sons in Vietnam. I’ll never forget the ceremony conducted at Norfolk Naval Station in honor of the seventeen USS Cole families who lost loved ones that tragic day in 2000. And then there was that special presentation of Honor and Remember Flags by Matthew Drake, the sole survivor of a terrorist car bombing, to the three mothers who lost their sons that October day in 2006. More recently in December, one Gold Star Mother made a personal flag presentation to another mom in Washington state. While in Puerto Rico, one of our team members presented a flag to the mother of a recently fallen marine who thought she’d been forgotten. This is the essence of our mission: while working toward national adoption and public awareness, we are first and foremost tasked with presenting personalized flags to all of those parents that we can identify.Now let’s focus on the breadth of opportunities awaiting us in 2009. This year we hope to be exponential in our efforts. Hand-sewn flags are already in production for many more families, including mothers from the Korean and Vietnam wars, and we are preparing for a special U.S. Marine Corps group presentation this July 4th in Washington D.C. Major ceremonies are also being planned around Gold Star communities in several states, including California, Illinois, Texas and Virginia. This will be accomplished not through our own efforts alone, but also through local, state and national partnership opportunities.
This year, H.R. 7111 will be re-introduced in the 111th Congress and we will continue to add national organizations to our endorsement list. Talking to your senators and representatives will help move that legislation forward. It was ei ghteen years before the POW flag was officially recognized and it is our hope that the 111th Congress will act quickly to adopt the Honor and Remember Flag. National media opportunities have already begun to surface and soon we will be seen on the Glenn Beck Show on the Fox News Channel, Living the Life on the Christian Broadcasting Network and several other programs that are in the planning stage.
Let’s take every opportunity to keep the momentum going and to continue to make an impact in every sphere of influence. There are no boundaries to remembering our heroes 365 days a year. Thank you all for your belief and support in this truly historic campaign.
Latest News in Brief
12/1/08 – National endorsement received from MOAA. Military Officers Association of America.
12/13/08 – Honor and Remember 2009 Strategy Meeting – committee planning for organizing and achieving next years goals.
12/21/08 – Marine Flags – 20 Personalized flags were ordered and went into production in honor of a select group of brave Marines. A special ceremony is scheduled for later in the year. More to come.
12/27/08 – Gold Star mother Doris Kent presented a personalized Honor and Remember Flag to Mrs. St. Pierre, in Washington state, in memory of her son. LCpl Kyle Brown, kia 7 Jan 2006. (see photo)
12/28/08 – Front page article with video about Honor and Remember campaign. READ ARTICLE HERE
Why I’m on Board
Aaron Charles Mandelbaum (Presented at his Bar Mitzvah)My grandfather, Leonard Sutton, operated a corner drugstore with a lunch counter in Norfolk, Virginia. He did a brisk business in bag lunches to go to the workers who worked in the Naval Shipyard, many of whom were high school students and young adults who sought to earn money to go to college or open a business of their own. One such high school kid was Johnnie Eller.
Johnnie was well liked by everyone because he was an honest, hard-working guy with a warm smile and good laugh. Upon graduation from high school, Johnnie enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported for duty in Vietnam. John Arthur Eller had served just a few days more than 6 months when on August 23, 1968 he was killed in Quang Nam, South Vietnam by hostile ground small arms fire. Of course, I never met Johnnie – but I wish I had. I have heard many stories about how well he treated my grandparents and how he was a friend to my mother and her sisters.
Last spring, I and my classmates at the Saligman Middle School took our class trip to Washington, DC. On our agenda was a trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I made it a point to find Johnnie’s name engraved on a wall of the Memorial. With the help and determination of Rabbi Shawn, a teacher at my school, we located Johnnie’s name. I touched his engraved name and my classmates felt that we should honor Johnnie right there. That afternoon we put on our kippot and recited the Kaddish for John Arthur Eller AND for all his comrades who had similarly fallen.
Surprisingly, in more than 200 years of our nation’s history there has never been a recognized symbol that reminds us daily of the sacrifices made by members of our military who lost their lives in service to our country. Until now. Through a visit to the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Amphibious Base – the largest of its kind in the world – I came across Honor and Remember, Inc., a nonprofit organization that has launched a national campaign to create an emblem with which every patriotic American can acknowledge the ultimate price for freedom.
As an extension of my Mitzvah Project, I have pledged some of my Bar Mitzvah money and made a commitment to spread the word about the need for a flag to honor those who have fallen in military service to our country. As a token of my pledge and commitment, I would like to present this flag for our synagogue to proudly display as a symbol of our congregation’s commitment to remember those who have honored our country and given the greatest of sacrifices to preserve its ideals and freedom.
Footnote: Aaron’s efforts and his intention to present a flag to TBI came to the attention of the Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk, VA. As a token of appreciation for Aaron’s support of troops who have fallen, Base Commander Michael T. DeWitt II made arrangements for Aaron to receive a surprise presentation of a U.S.flag that was the only flag flown on the central flag stand at the naval base on the morning of September 11, 2008 – when a memorial service was conducted before 3,500 officers and men. Rabbi Kalev made the presentation on behalf of the U.S. Navy to Aaron on the Bimah the morning of Aaron’s Bar Mitzvah. The flag now is displayed outside the TBI Sanctuary as a reminder to all.
From Aaron’s mother, Gail: Mr. Lutz, you have no idea about the impact of your organization on our family. Thank you for the opportunity to deliver the message of honor and deliver it from one generation to another.
I joined the U.S. Navy in 1940 and retired after 20 years. I lost many shipmates at Pearl Harbor, during WWII in the South Pacific Theater and in Korea. I bought your flag last year and will proudly fly it on my lighted flagpole. Homeland, CA
I think this is a great idea and I hope and pray the House and Senate will pass this bill. All should be proud for their efforts in making this possible. I have printed the petition and will distribute it for signatures in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
Thank you for all you are doing. My name is Dawn Spencer. My son William D. Spencer was killed on 12-28-06. Thank you. Today is the two-year mark. My oldest son leaves 01-15-09 for basic training. Thank you. Never Let ‘Em Forget. Middletown, OH
I read the article today in the newspaper and I had tears in my eyes. Very moving. I am going to fly the flag. Virginia Beach, VA
I think the flag honoring fallen heroes is wonderful. We lost our son in Mosul, Iraq on 1/15/2007. Our hearts go out to the many families who have also lost a loved one. Wisconsin Rapids, WI
I received this link from my friend that lost her husband on my last deployment. We were both in the same squad and were very close friends. I looked at this man as the brother I didn’t have. I believe that this flag may be the best design to honor our loved ones and friends. I hope to see this flag flying soon. Killeen, TX
IRAQ INJURED and THANK YOU – It gives me goose bumps and lets me offer peace to my fallen family in supporting this flag. I am broke n and medically struggling, but I am alive. With this flag, I believe OUR family too will live. HOOAH! Albany, NY
Thanks to all who have taken the time to leave such wonderful comments in our guestbook. There are hundreds more to read at www.honorandremember.org/guestbook.html