Flags for Forgotten Soldiers

Honoring the Forgotten Soldier

Do you remember the shooting that took place on November 5, 2009? My son, SSG Joshua Berry, was there at Fort Hood when the shooting took place. Suffering terribly from PTSD as a result of the shooting and his time in Afghanistan, Josh committed suicide 39 months later, on February 13, 2013, becoming one of the 22 veterans who take their lives every day. Through the loss of my son, my family has become one of the 660 families who lose a loved one each month because of empty promises and a broken system.

Unfortunately, Josh has become one of the faceless many that are part of a staggering statistic, a number we’re familiar with but can’t understand. 22 a day, 660 a month, 7,920 a year—what do these numbers really look like? What can we do to help support our vets? We can start by educating people so more become involved in the fight to provide better health services.

After spending the last four years writing to all members of Congress, going to Washington DC twice to meet with lawmakers, working with our local VA, and attending each VA town hall meeting they’ve held, it’s clear that the only way to make a change is to get more people involved. That’s why this work is so important.

My mission is to gather enough flags so that these forgotten soldiers can be honored and remembered in each of the fifty states. I believe that if the American people were aware that almost 8,000 veterans die by their own hand every year, we would do whatever it takes to ensure that the brave men and women who have who volunteered to defend our freedom receive the support they were promised when they entered the military. Too many have died from indifference and intolerance. Let’s work to change that.

Why contribute?

Do you remember the Yellow Ribbon campaign, when yellow ribbon decals were proudly displayed on millions of bumpers to show support of soldiers fighting in the Middle East? As a nation, we expressed our solidarity with these men and women while they were deployed, but where is the support now that they’re home?

Our country needs a visual reminder, like those bumper stickers, that the war isn’t over for our veterans. So why display 660 flags? After putting flags on the graves of my son; my father, a WWII veteran; and other veterans who have fallen, the cemetery called to ask if I would like to have the flags they had collected over the last year.

That’s when the idea was born. Looking at bundles of hundreds of flags, it hit me—each representing a veteran and displayed in one place, these flags can have the same impact as those bumper stickers did. People need to see, people need a visual reference to understand just how many people die each month because they haven’t received the care they were promised. This is a way to start a discussion, one our vets badly need us to have. If we lost 660 Americans a month to plane crashes, wouldn’t we do something? So what’s the difference?

The Flags and the Cost

After my son’s death, I reached out to Collins Flags (formerly CVS Flags). I was looking for a quality, American-made flag, which I could use to honor my son, my father, and other fallen veterans. They delivered a quality product at an awesome price, and I can never repay the kindness and compassion that Collins Flags has shown my family.

The flags are 12x18” hemmed stick flags, built to last and to be used multiple times. The 660 flag displays will be moved to different locations throughout the year, so using durable flags is a must. Click here for more info on the flags.

One flag display will take approximately 5 gross (5 x 144 flags= 720 flags). This accounts for 660 flags for the display and 60 flags to replace damaged or missing flags. At $128.16 a gross, plus sales tax and the 5% that GoFundMe charges, the total cost for one flag display is approximately 720.00, or $1.00 per flag. As donations come in, flags will be purchased and distributed to volunteer organizers.

 Since there are already displays in Ohio and New Jersey, there are 48 states to go. This brings the total cost for this GoFundMe campaign to $34,560 ($720.00 x 48 states). Sure, that’s a lot of money for flags, and it’s fair to ask why not just donate this money to organizations that help vets. I believe that increased awareness will grow into increased support, so those organizations will get more donations. And if these displays show just one veteran that we as a nation are here for them, then the cost is worth it.

Where does your contribution go?

Currently, I have contacts in North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Idaho, Washington, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While I don’t know a veteran or veteran advocate in every state, I do know vets who are willing to find suitable sites and display the 660 flag installations in over ten states to get us started. And these vets know other vets and vet organizations who can help spread the word.

If you’re interested in helping set up a display in a public area in your state, please let me know. This work is an ongoing process, and while I can’t do it alone, we can do it together.

Stories and Links

“20 Vets Commit Suicide a Day, 660 American Flags Placed Locally to Raise Awareness” by Brad Underwood. WKRC Cincinnati. 11 March 2017. http://local12.com/news/local/20-vets-commit-suicide-a-day-660-american-flags-placed-locally-to-raise-awareness http://local12.com/news/local/20-vets-commit-suicide-a-day-660-american-flags-placed-locally-to-raise-awareness 

“Father of Fort Hood Victim Seeks ‘Justice for Josh’” by Emma Margolin. MSNBC Live with Tamron Hall. 7 August 2013. http://www.msnbc.com/news-nation/father-fort-hood-victim-seeks-justice

“Father Says PTSD Killed His Son, and VA Did Nothing to Help” by Marais Jacon-Duffy and Scott Wegener. WCPO Cincinnati. 2015. http://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/sycamore-township/father-says-ptsd-killed-his-son-and-va-did-nothing-to-help

“Flags Fly for Veterans Suicide Awareness” by Chris Mayhew. Cincinnati Enquirer. 17 March 2017. http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/local/cincinnati/2017/03/17/flags-fly-veterans-suicide-awareness/99203376/

 “Local Group Working to End Suicide among Veterans, Service Members” by Rick Reitzel. NBC4 Columbus. 20 March 2017. http://nbc4i.com/2017/03/20/local-group-working-to-end-suicide-among-veterans-service-members/

“VIP Treatment: Accused Fort Hood Shooter Gets Daily Helicopter Rides” by Scott Friedman. NBC Dallas/Ft. Worth. 5 August 2013. http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/VIP-Treatment--Accused-Fort-Hood-Shooter-Gets-Daily-Helicopter-Rides-218145071.html

“Witness Testimony” by Howard Berry. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. 17 September 2013. https://veterans.house.gov/witness-testimony/mr-berry


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