This last month has proven to be monumental in the scope of our vision. It is difficult to begin to prioritize the importance of so many milestones. Each element of Honor and Remember’s three-fold mission experienced significant progress.
First, I want to convey our heartfelt thanks to Dennis Miller, the Fox News Channel commentator, for sincerely believing in this vision and sharing it with his good friend Bill O’Reilly. On October 22, Mr. O’Reilly mentioned Honor and Remember in the Reality Check portion of his TV show, the O’Reilly Factor, at Mr. Miller’s request. Mr. O’Reilly encouraged his viewers to support Honor and Remember and put the website address on the screen. This unexpected national launch resulted in thousands of hits on www.honorandremember.org. Consequently, I want to welcome the many new supporters to the Honor and Remember Dispatch who responded to Bill O’Reilly’s statement of support by signing the petition, making a donation and purchasing flags. Thank you for supporting this historic campaign.
In keeping with our mission, we have been honoring many Gold Star families with flags all month. On October 12, personalized Honor and Remember Flags were prepared for each of the 17 families that lost sailors on October 12, 2000, when suicide bombers in Yemen attacked the USS Cole. The ceremony, held at Naval Station Norfolk, was solemn and beautiful. Retired Sailors from Branch 5 of the Fleet Reserve Association, Norfolk VA had raised the nearly 4,000 dollars to purchase the flags that made the presentation possible. Please visit our website to read comments on the event in our guest book and blog.
On October 15, three mothers in Washington State received personalized flags honoring their sons, who all died in the same suicide car bombing attack in Iraq, 2004. One soldier who survived the attack but was severely injured joined with his mother to purchase and present the flags to the mom’s of his fallen comrades. A moving personal account of that ceremony appears below in the Why I’m on Board segment. (see photo above)
Last week I presented a personalized flag to Mrs. Marge Hickey, who lost her 19-year-old son in Vietnam in 1966. Forty-two years after his death, she still bears the grief of her loss and for one significant moment she was individually honored for her son’s sacrifice. Despite the many years that have passed since the day she received the worst news a mother can hear, Mrs. Hickey was deeply moved and grateful to receive her flag.
Sometimes I am a little disheartened when I receive a comment from someone who doesn’t see the need for a national remembrance flag. Rare though they are, these remarks grieve me and I wonder why there is anyone who doesn’t “get it”. The concept of making sure that each individual life is remembered everyday, is not something that should take much thought to accept. Strong, healthy young men and women swore an oath to defend our freedoms and accept the risk of paying the ultimate price for their country. My dismay over any negative statements are quickly dispelled, however, when I think about moments like the one I had with Mrs. Hickey. Try explaining to her and the many Gold Star families we hear from everyday, that we don’t need a national emblem the gives continuous tribute to their sons and daughters!
Thank you to all who are in the trenches helping us to honor one life at a time. There are thousands more parents to reach and honor, even some mothers who lost children in the Korean War. Stay tuned as we press forward with this historic campaign.
Latest News in Brief
October was a busy month. Here are some highlights of how we advanced the cause of Honor and Remember:
10/25/08 – Mayor Rudy Giuliani adds his support.
10/24/08 – Personal contact with Mike Huckabee, Alan Colmes and Rick Santorum
10/22/08 – Dennis Miller and Bill O’Reilly give national endorsement!
10/18/08 – Meeting with National Vietnam Veterans of America.
10/15/08 – Three mothers with a special relationship presented flags in state of Washington.
10/12/08 – USS Cole family flag presentations
10/07/08 – Radio interview with Jim Blasingame, the Small Business Guru
10/06/08 – Personal contact with Secretary of the Army Pete Geren
More detail on these events can be found in our blog. www.honorandremember.org/guestbook.html
Why I’m on Board – Lisa Schuster
On October 15, 2004, my son, Matthew Drake, was the only survivor of a suicide car-bombing, which took the lives of his Psychological Operations teammates, a Marine videographer, and their Iraqi interpreter. The Americans killed that day were: SSgt. Michael G. Owen, Cpl. Jonathan J. Santos, and Marine Cpl. William I. Salazar.
Due to the severity of his injuries, Matthew was unable to attend any of the memorial services for his fallen brothers. Matthew received many injuries, including multiple fractures and burns, but his most serious and life-altering one was a severe traumatic brain injury. He has worked hard relearning how to do the most basic life skills, including walking and talking.
While Matthew was recovering, we hung pictures and articles about all three men and a memorial plaque of SSgt. Owen and Cpl. Santos in his room, but it wasn’t enough. As he began to heal and to think more like an adult again, Matthew began to be bothered by the fact that he had not been there to pay his respects to the buddies he lost that awful day. He especially worried about their mothers.
We could never think of an appropriate way to reach out to their families to show that we did care, that they have never been forgotten, that they are always in our thoughts and prayers. Then we heard about a Gold Star father, George Lutz, and the Honor and Remember Flag he created for his fallen hero son, Tony, and all those who had fallen before him and after him in service to our country. I talked to George and went to the website, and suddenly we knew we’d found what we’d been looking for.
Matthew wanted to present a personalized flag to the Gold Star Mothers of each of his “brothers.” We ordered the flags and when they came, they were so beautiful that we were moved to tears. But how would we get them to three mothers living far away from us? Then another wonderful thing happened. We were invited to Bellingham, Washington, Jonatha n Santos’ home town, for a screening of a film, “The Corporal’s Diary,” a documentary using entries from his diary, videos and pictures. The film also includes footage of Matthew before and after his injuries and pays tribute to Michael and William. We found out that all the “moms” were going to be there and we knew we’d been given the chance of a lifetime.
On October 15, 2008, four years to the day after the attack, Matthew presented Kay Hutchison, mother of SSgt. Michael G. Owen, Doris Kent, mother of Cpl. Jonathan J. Santos, and Gloria Salazar, mother of Cpl. William I. Salazar, with personalized Honor and Remember Flags in a very special ceremony. Matthew proudly and solemnly handed each mother her flag as I read aloud the dedication on the accompanying certificates.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as each of these wonderful Gold Star Mothers held up her flag. Their faces glowed with pride, even through their tears. And my son was finally able to stand, tall and proud, and show these special moms just how much they mean to him, and to our nation.
Matthew did his buddies proud that day. I just know that Tony, Michael, Jonathan, and William were up there filled with pride and gratitude to you and to Matthew. Believing that is a gift that will begin to heal a very broken part of my son’s heart, and mine as well. Thank you George, and God Bless you for giving us the Honor and Remember Flag. Lisa Schuster
“I received my flag yesterday. As a twenty year veteran, I thank you Mr. Lutz for your vision, come true, honoring all of our fallen heroes. I will fly your flag honorably!” Gillette, WY
“My family belong to a vfw post in bklyn and we are trying to teach our unit how to help our vets in different ways. this is a great site. keep up the great work if we can help please let me know”
“I think this is long over due, we need to support our troops more past and present.being retired with two children in the service we don’t ever need to forget. Thank you for this flag.” Courtland, MS
“I am a Gold Star Mother. What an honor to have a flag designed to recognize ALL military individuals. The design of the flag is perfect. We will fly it proudly next to our American and USMC flag. Thank You!”
“I am US Navy Seabee WW II This flag will respect the 1.6 million people who gave their lives to keep this country free from oppression and communism and will be a symbol of their valor.” Scottsdale, AZ
Find more comments on our guest book. www.honorandremember.org/guestbook.html