"September 11th impressed upon us that life is a precious gift...And I think we all have a duty to devote at least a small portion of our daily lives to ensuring that neither America nor the world ever forgets September 11th." ~ Sen. Bil Frist
"Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11." ~ President Barack Obama
There are 7,021 American flags adorning Art Hill this weekend, each one representing a fallen military service man or woman who has given the ultimate sacrifice in Operations: Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom's Sentinel. Each flag has an attached photograph and dog tag of every service member who has lost their life fighting in the Wars on Terror. All placed with military precision in chronological order of the date of death. At the bottom of Art Hill, centered in front of the basin, stands the 'Flag of Valor' with the names of all 2,996 victims who lost their life on 9-11. Lining the basin, single flags stand to honor and represent all the service men and women who have not returned home from all U.S conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War. A single flag also flies to pay tribute to all those who have lost their life after returning home due to PTSD.
Visiting is powerful, and I hope everyone has a chance to visit the memorial today. We visited early Saturday morning and in the quiet, to hear the dog tags clinking against the flag poles, was almost too much. Visually, to see the 7,000+ flags and know that each one represents someone who didn't return home really places things into perspective. In the quiet moments of Saturday morning in Saint Louis, I met several people, and was privileged to hear some powerful stories of family members who lost loved ones on or since 9-11. We returned late that night, which was particularly sobering, as volunteers were reading each of the 7,021 names. To see all the flags illuminated at night, on this ionic landmark in St. Louis, was beautiful.
By making a donation on Flags of Valor you're able to purchase one of the flags flown in the memorial. The profits go to support 4 not-for-profit veteran groups. This seemed like the perfect time to purchase a flag for our future home. We received the flag honoring Marine Cpl. Zachary A. Kolda who was killed December 1st by enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq. A quote from a letter home he wrote, postmarked Nov. 17, “Laugh harder than you should, it feels good. Remember, sometimes a sunset is enough to fix a lousy day. When everything stinks, go for a jog to remind yourself you can still run.”
I do not take for granted that my brother has returned home safely from both of his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Walking amongst the flags, it's hard to believe this is the 15th anniversary of 9-11, more so than almost any other moment of my life, I can still recall exactly where I was when the news broke. To the 2,996 victims, we will never forget. And to my brother who continues to serve in the USMC, to Cpl. Zachary A Kolda, to my friends that have served, and to all my patients, we are all indefinitely indebted to your service. Thank you.