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    Posted September 9, 2010 by
    katigarner
    Location
    SACRAMENTO, California
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

    More from katigarner

    Flag Honors and Remembers All Military Lives Lost

     

    On December 29, 2005, George  Anthony Lutz II (Tony) was killed by a sniper’s bullet while he was on  patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. His family and friends endured the shock,  emotional agony and overwhelming loss that accompanied the news of  Tony’s death, just like the many families who have suffered the same  tragedy.Tony's father, George, began a mission on how to Honor and Remember American service men and women who never made it home.

     

    George Lutz (below) was in Sacramento Aug. 8,2010.

    His story is told below:

    I recorded his words as he spoke to a group gathered at the  All Wars Memorial at Capitol Park:

    "This is an emotional thing for me to do this. I really am  honored that you all are here, especially in a hallowed ground as  remembering those service members from all other wars. Because, I think,  appropriately, what this mission is about is reaching back to all wars  as well as the present and beyond.

     

    We're going to honor one particular family today at the end of my message.

    We've all heard the expression that freedom isn't free. That  became very real to me. Forgive me if I lose my composure. I'm not the  marketing man. This is what's a part of me.

     

    What I share is my heart and why I read nothing. It comes from where I am.

    That phrase 'freedom isn't free' became very real to me on Dec. 30,  2005. I got a knock on the door from two uniformed soldiers who brought  me those dreadful words - We regret to inform you that my son had been  killed the day before by a sniper's bullet in Fallujah, Iraq.

     

    To use the term devastation isn't a big enough of a word because the emotions of that moment and then what followed.
    I thought to myself, first, certainly they've come to the wrong house.  Or maybe he was wounded, and they just need to tell me I just need to go  somewhere.
    But of course that wasn't the message. I was never going to see his face  again. I'd never hear his voice and I thought to myself do I dare to  live one more day? He was my best friend.

     

    And I started to go through the processes of grief that many have gone  through. But one of those processes took me on a different journey.

    And that journey was a journey of remembering.

    I began quickly to search the house for anything that could  bring one more day of memory to me. Photographs, emails, videotapes. I'd  fortunately videotaped his life from when he was a child until he was a  teenager. So I tried to find those.

    I found a scrap of paper that he'd written a grocery list on.
    I found a couple of letters he'd actually written in basic training  because they're not allowed to use any electronic equipment, so he was  forced to actually handwrite a letter.
    I had that and it meant the world to me.

     

    But you know that process comes to an end because there are only so many drawers you can open, so many closets you can open.

    My son was married and had two children. He had a life of his  own. He was 25 years old when he was killed. I thought to myself  certainly his friends will have stories. So I would reach out and find  out if there were any other pictures that I hadn't seen, any stories  they had so they could share his life to me.
    That came to an end. And I realized, wait a minute, he was serving in  the US Army and was training with his buddies. They would have stories.

     

    So I went to them and tried to find out anything I could  about how he served and how he did his job. Were they proud of him? What  did he have for breakfast that morning?
    I will tell you that those that were with him are not very forthcoming.  It's a very difficult thing for some who were with your son, or with  your daughter or with your husband to come forward and face you.
    At least not right away.

     

    It's not something you can pin your hat on in terms of happening.

     

    Then I realized he died for his country.
    And that's the part that really started to stick with me.

    Because you know we all walk around in freedom. Everyday.
    We do whatever we want to do because of men and women that sign that  blank check.Which the price is up to often losing their lives.
    But very few people understand what that price really is. And what that price means.

     

    But I wanted to know how America remembers. I began a search for that.
    Because I wanted to embrace it. I wanted to hold onto it. I wanted to be comforted by it.
    But I'll tell you what I found in my search.

    There are wonderful memorials like this (All Wars Memorial).  My son's name on a wall in San Francisco or in Richmond or in Illinois.
    But they weren't public symbols. Those were monuments built by veterans. Funded by veterans for veterans.

     

    And I thought: the general public - how often are they gonna get to  Washington, DC and see the Vietnam Wall or see the beautiful WWII  memorial that was recently constructed?
    I don't know what percentage. Maybe  5% of the nation might get there? That wasn't what I was looking for.

    Then I kept seeing that phrase "Support our Troops" with the yellow ribbons. We probably have it on our cars.
    I looked at that and I'll tell you I have seven trees in front of my  house and I have a yellow ribbon tied to every single one of them.
    But, ya know, after he was killed, and this is my personal testimony, so  I can't speak for everyone else, but to tell you that when I saw that  phrase after he was killed it meant nothing to me.
    Because he was a troop, he was out there and I was supporting him and he didn't come home.

     

    And I thought to myself: where was his tribute?
    Where was something that identified his sacrifice?
    Because, yes we need to pray for the troops, we need to support the troops absolutely.
    But there's a total picture to that. The troops are ALL of them, whether  they come home or are still out there. That is the collective group of  troops.

    And there was no message for the fallen.

     

    I started to attend the funerals of those killed after my

    son.
    Unfortunately, there's many in the state of Virginia.
    And as I began to speak to those families, I met other families from  previous generations from Vietnam, from the Gulf, from Korea, from WWII.  And I began to hear the same cry over and over from each one of those  families.

     

     

    The same thing continuously: Please don't let this end up in  vain. And please don't let them be forgotten. Those were the only two  things that I would ever hear.
    And I thought about that long and hard.
    Because the 'in vain' part brings a lot of hurt to a lot of people,  especially from those wars that were unappreciated such as Vietnam,  and  Korea, the forgotten war. But then I realized that this country is  still free.

     

    This country, the greatest nation on earth is still providing help to other countries all over the world.
    We still have not been conquered on our own soil.
    And so the 'in vain' part became very clear to me. And I can answer that almost instantly.

    As long as the American Flag flies freely above the land and  above any soil on which it's planted, no sacrifice will have been in  vain.
    Because the purity of what we do shines forth and don't politicize that.
    And I won't let anyone politicize it.

     

    And I'll tell you that the parents and spouses that have lost so much  over the years will tell you it makes no difference of how or where they  were killed. At the end of the day, they're not coming home.  You can't  make politics out of that.

    We all want to think and believe and be proud of our loved ones, regardless of that circumstance.

     

    And as I was attending the funerals I would see the POW flag flying everywhere. There's one here.
    I would see the POW flag and I thought to myself: what an honor and  wonderful tribute it was to have a flag for those captured and missing.  That needed to be remembered.
    And the government actually adopted this military symbol and made it a public symbol.
    I thought to myself: there was nearly 57,000 that died in Vietnam. Where was their flag? Where was their tribute?

     

    That became the precedent for my thought that the fallen need  a flag. And why? Because if you look around at all the flags in this  circle here there are flags for everything in this country. Everyone  seems to have a flag, an emblem or icon that identifies them.

     

    Everybody.

     

    We have a US Flag with 50 stars, yet every state has their own flag. That's kind of arrogant, isn't it?
    Every branch of service has their own flag. Every ship in the Navy has  their own flag. Every unit in the Army has their own flag with their  symbol on it. Everybody has their own symbol that identifies who they  are and what group they belong to.
    My contention is that the only reason we can fly any of these flags is  because of the men and women that have sacrificed their lives throughout  history.

     

    Why don't they have a flag?

     

    Why don't they have a symbol that when we look at it we identify it with the price of freedom?

    And that is why I'm here.

     

    To introduce an Honor and Remember Flag.

    On May 26, 2008, the Honor and Remember Flag was unveiled publicly to the nation.
    It was established to be a national symbol of remembrance, recognizing  all those who gave their lives and service to our country from the  beginning of our country's history to the present and the future.
    The symbolism behind this flag came from military and universal icons and understanding.

    I wanted it to be distinct, attractive and easily recognized and easily understood.
    The red field of this flag stands for the sacrifice of blood shed - what better color than American-Flag red?
    The white beneath that red signifies the purity of sacrifice because our  men and women, each one of them, said to us "Don't worry, I've got it  covered. I'll be back."

    The blue star in the center, some of us may recognize as  coming from a blue star banner from WWI, which was high on the windows  and doors of families who had someone on active duty.
    The gold star symbolizes that life was lost and not coming home. It's where we got the term Gold Star father, Gold Star Mother.

     

    Most people in the US don't know what a Gold Star is, but they will.
    The folded flag beneath the star stands for an individual life lost. A  folded flag handed to a family at the memorial of their loved one.
    The flames above it are an eternal reminder that we'll never forget.
    And the words below - we will always honor their sacrifice and remember them specially by name.
    Because they are names. They are loved ones with family, extended  families, friends and comrades. And they deserve to be remembered  individually whenever possible and one of the things I realized was it's  not our nation's fault in term or degrees of remembrance.

     

    It's the way we've been programmed. If you think about it, we  support our troops everyday be when we lose someone our mind  automatically goes - at least my mind went there - to Memorial Day.  That's the day we have to remember.
    So it's easy to go "Oh that's right, it was so bad, so sorry" and then go on with our lives and we'll remember on Memorial Day.

     

    And what struck me is I never forget. A day doesn't go by that I don't remember.
    And so I selfishly thought maybe I can get everybody else to remember too.
    Maybe I can fly something so at least when they see it that the symbolism will come to them.


    And so there's a bill in Congress right now - HR1034 - for the US  Congress to make this an officially recognized flag of the United  States' symbol of remembrance.

     

    It took 18 years for the POW flag to become officially recognized, just to give you a little context there.

     

    About a year ago, several states started to call me and said, "We don't  want to wait for Congress. We want to fly this flag now for our  families."
    And one by one they began to call me and by January 2010 I had six or  eight states that were writing legislation. I thought this is a very  slow process because I have just  handful of people helping me.

     

    There's  no way of reaching out to the entire country without a journey.

     

    I thought to myself: I'm going to step out and plan to reach  all 50 states in a short amount of time. To bring this message where I  can and as quickly as I can and to leave as many people knowledgeable as  to what needs to be done and the importance of this in every state.

     

    California is my 38th state.

     

    I've travelled over 18,000 miles since June 7, 2010. I've  been able to meet with Governors, Lt. Governors, Medal of Honor winners,  Adjutant Generals and many many legislators.

    And many many veterans and Gold Star families.
    And in the 38 states I've been in I've gotten a commitment from every state that this flag will be flying.

     

    I have 12 more states to go.

     

    I will conclude this phase of the journey at Arlington Cemetery on Nov. 11, Veterans Day where many of our sons, daughters and
    husbands and wives are buried.

    I began at Dover Air Force Base where they come home.

    And I will end where they are laid to rest."

     

    Keep track of George Lutz and the Honor and Remember Flag: www.honorandremember.org

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