A Memorable Displaly of Flags

Crowd with flags

Crowds waving U.S. flags Lined 12300 South in Draper, Utah

When a Healing Field® or Field of Honor® display of flags is posted, we say that for every flag there is a story.  Every flag symbolizes an individual, a life important to family, friends and associates.  We are reminded of this statement’s truth as local organizing committee members share their experiences with us.  Nonetheless, there are stories that are communicated not by a single flag but by many more flags. There are times when communities express their feelings with a large outpouring of emotion accompanied by a massive display of our national flag.  We experienced just such an event when a local police officer gave his life while protecting his community.

Sgt Derek Johnson photo

Sergeant Derek Johnson died in the line of duty.

It was just a routine traffic stop to see if a motorist needed help until without warning, Sergeant Derek Johnson was mortally wounded.  Before the assailant turned his gun on himself, he shot an occupant of his car and seriously wounded another police officer.  This senseless act of violence created an immediate sense of disbelief and mourning.  The stunned residents of Draper and surrounding communities needed a positive way to honor Sergeant Johnson and demonstrate their support for his grieving widow and young son.

This tragedy transpired only days before the annual Utah Healing Field® flag display held each September to remember and honor the victims of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.  Johnson’s fellow police officers contacted Colonial Flag Foundation to see if flags planned for display at the Healing Field® event could be used to line the street leading to the cemetery where Sergeant Johnson would be laid to rest.  When the officers were told that thousands of U.S. flags and flagstaffs were at the Colonial Flag warehouse awaiting assembly, they quickly organized teams of volunteers to assemble flags that would first be used to line the street leading to the cemetery and then would be moved to the Sandy City Promenade to be posted at the 12th Annual Healing Field® event in Sandy.

Dozens of volunteers descended on Colonial Flag’s warehouse where they attached flags to flagstaffs, furled the flags and stacked them on a trailer awaiting transport to the funeral route.  As these volunteers readied thousands of flags for display, they experienced fulfillment in the service they gave to honor Sergeant Johnson and provide comfort to his family.

Assembling Flags

Volunteers assembled flag that would line the funeral route.

The morning of the funeral was beautiful as blue skies provided the perfect backdrop for the stunning panorama of flags that would line the funeral route to the cemetery.  As Colonial Flag Foundation’s trailer stacked with furled flags proceeded along the route, the flags were posted at regular intervals until the trailer was empty.  Crowds gathered along the route and other groups arrived with more flags to augment the flags already posted.  By the time the funeral had ended and the funeral cortege made its way along the street, the roadway exploded with thousands of people waving thousands of flags.

Flags lining street jmh small

A display of flags honored Sergeant Johnson and showed support for his grieving family.

It is always hard to know what to do or what to say when such horrible things happen.  However, as the car bearing Sergeant Johnson’s widow and son passed, the crowds demonstrated their support for the grieving family while they honored a police officer who lived and died protecting his community.

A little more than six months has passed since this amazing display of flags blazed against mountains and skies.  It is impossible to explain the impact of such experiences. There are amazing photographs of the scene, but more importantly it lives in the memory of those who experienced it.


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