The Fort Scott National Historic Site began placing flags on its parade grounds Thursday afternoon in preparation for its third annual Symbols of Sacrifice event, to be held Sept. 11-17.
About 20 students from Fort Scott Christian Heights came to help place the flags and Uniontown middle school students plan to come Friday to do the same as they place the almost 7,000 flags honoring the men and women killed during the War on Terror.
“It’s nice to have them participate and maybe take something away from it,” park ranger and event organizer Bill Fischer said of those students, some of whom are not much younger than the soldiers killed.
Fischer said the event first began with a group of community members who wanted to honor those killed. One of those involved in the start-up even had the difficult job of being present when family members were informed of a soldier’s death.
“It was driven by community members who really wanted to recognize those men and women,” Fischer said.
Since that time, the national historic site has hosted the event annually, getting the number of deaths from the United States Central Command. This year 6,838 flags will be flown, including flags for those killed in action, those who died in the line of duty such as in vehicle accidents, and American non-combatants who were also killed.
Individual flags are also placed in honor of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, for United States civilians killed overseas and those killed in other American wars.
“It’s a labor of love,” Fischer said of placing those flags, saying they are looking for volunteers who could give some of their time Friday to help. “It’s not easy to do. It takes a lot of people.”
Fischer said they also need volunteers to participate in reading the names of all those killed, starting at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, over the public announcement system in downtown Fort Scott. The names will be read in 15 minute increments.
“It means a lot to me,” said Fischer, who retired from the United States Air Force in 2003 and has three children who are veterans of the War on Terror, including a son who was injured while overseas and saw fellow soldiers killed.
Fischer said he has heard from others as well who were moved by the event, such as a man who heard the name of a man he served with read over the PA system in a previous year.
This year, the event will feature a concert by the 1st Infantry Division’s Brass Band out of Fort Riley, starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. The event will also take time to recognize Vietnam veterans in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
Throughout the following week, the flags will be kept in place for visitors to see.