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Flags of Valor to bring more than 7,000 American flags to Missouri

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By CAROLINE HECKER

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    ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — More than 7,000 American flags will fill Art Hill in Forest Park with red, white and blue ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

America’s Heartland Remembers, the group that organizes the event, will honor the first responders who died on 9/11, along with U.S. servicemembers who paid the ultimate sacrifice following that life-changing day.

“We first did it on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, then on the 15th and now on the 20th,” said Rick Randall, President of America’s Heartland Remembers.

For months, hundreds of volunteers, including some Gold Star Families, have planned the event, which is set to run September 4 through September 12. The 3′ x 5′ flags are made in Ohio and shipped to St. Louis, where volunteers work to attach them to 10-inch poles. Guarantee Electrical Company, in South City, provides an air-conditioned warehouse to store the flags, as well as the space for volunteers to get together to assemble them.

“We want every single one to look perfect,” said Paul Carlock, a volunteer who has been helping out with Flags of Valor since 2011. “Because when these Gold Star families come in, say from the east coast, they want to see that one particular flag and want, and deserve for it to look right.”

In addition to the flags, each will be adorned with dog tags and the picture of a servicemember killed in wartime. Flag teams at the top of Art Hill will help families and friends find specific heroes, based on the year of their death.

“It does take your breath away and especially when you walk up to one individual flag and you look at a picture of a beautiful man or woman and you read about them and look at their dog tag, you look around and realize there are 7,054 more of those,” said Randall.

This week, volunteers are finishing up pairing dog tags with photos, carefully ensuring each matches and no spelling errors are found. One of those volunteers is Herb Walker, who lost his grandson, Army Specialist Matthew Walker, in 2014.

“Thinking about him today I still get very emotional,” said Walker. “When you think that every one of these people, that we’re doing this for, lost their life fighting for their country, they’re all very special heroes.”

Early Sunday morning, hundreds of volunteers will help upload the more than 21 tons of American flags off of trucks and begin assembling them across Art Hill. In all, they’ll total nearly 11 miles of flag rows and encompass 10 acres. The event was supposed to take place Saturday, but due to impending rain it was pushed back a day.

“To know it’s made a difference to someone, to know people understand that we respect and will never forget their loss and sacrifice is gratifying,” said Carlock.

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