Not many people noticed, but national recognition was bestowed Thursday morning during the Celebration of Life for Lahiri Garcia and Paul Besaw, the first reponders killed in a crash June 1 in Jupiter.
The U.S. Honor Flag was brought in by uniformed members of the organization and placed, unfurled, on a black table in front of the podium. About 600 family, fellow paramedics, law enforcement officers and friends from across the state stood at attention at Christ Fellowship on Northlake Boulevard.
“The flag is displayed for American heroes,” said Cynthia Cohn, the chief of staff of the non-profit organization based in Keller, Texas.
Since 2007, the flag has traveled more than 7 million miles to honor Americans in the military, police, fire departments and medical services killed while on duty.
The flag — 3-by-5 feet — flew during 9/11 recovery efforts. It has also flown over state capitols, The Pentagon, presidential libraries and state and national memorials.
In 2011, the flag flew aboard the space shuttle Atlantis’ final mission to pay tribute to astronauts who have died in the line of duty.
Before coming to Christ Fellowship, the flag was in Anderson County, S.C. It was on display for the funeral of Sheriff Deputy Devin Hodges. The 30-year-old father of four drowned during a marine training exercise June 1.
Each time the flag is moved or held, it is done so by U.S. Honor Flag personnel wearing new custom white gloves. The gloves have the letters “USHF” embroidered on them in police blue. The gloves are presented to the family/families of those being honored, said Chris Heisler, founder and president of Honor Flag.
Security coordination for the U.S. Honor Flag is comparable to that of a head of state, said Heisler, who was attached to 101st Airborne Division.
The Texas House of Representatives presented Heisler with a flag that flew over the World Trade Center shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Heisler took the flag with him while he served in combat zones in Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq.
Heisler brought the flag home to Texas. He formed U.S. Honor Flag, a non-profit organization, after he was honorably discharged in 2007.
“I wanted to honor American heroes,” Heisler said.
The U.S. Honor Flag always is escorted by various law enforcement personnel during its journey around the nation. Determining where and when to display the flag is determined on an individual basis, said Heisler.
“A lot depends on logistics, where the flag is when the request is made,” said Heisler.
The U.S. Honor Flag is secured by armed personnel or remains inside a controlled access room/vault at all times.
The flag has six microchips sewn inside the white reinforced border and garment mounts. The microchips allow U.S. Honor Flag officials to make keep track of the flag maintain its authenticity and can be scanned by a hosting agency.
When not in use, the flag is secured inside a custom ballistic case that can be tracked anywhere in the world.
The case is coded as HarwoodONE. It is named after Corporal Jason E. Harwood, a 15-year member of the Topeka Police Department who died in the line of duty.
Thursday’s Celebration of Life in Palm Beach Gardens was the first time the flag had been to Florida for first responders. The flag has made other stops in Florida for fallen police officers and fire fighters, said Heisler.
“Florida leads the nation in the number of police officers and fire fighters killed in the line of duty,” Heisler said.
For more information on the United States Honor Flag, visit USHonorFlag.org.