The Fallen Heroes Memorial in Tampa, Florida honors all those who have fallen in combat and serves as an important reminder to the reality and true cost of war through its somewhat magical composition.
From afar, the 28 feet wide by six feet tall American flag is noticeable and its metal composition is reflective of the sunlight overhead. Up close, visitors can see the flag is entirely composed of dog tags from fallen soldiers.
“It speaks for itself. When you see it, it’s large and it’s powerful,” James Howard, veteran and founder of a non-profit group called Veterans and Athletes United (VAU), said of the memorial via WTVR.
The @WarriorGames remind us of the sacrifices our service members make to protect our freedoms. We encourage all visitors to take a moment to see the beautiful flag on the @tampariverwalk made entirely of dog tags from fallen soldiers. We are forever grateful for their service. pic.twitter.com/zPbbZXv7or
— Tampa Convention Center (@TheTampaCC) June 26, 2019
As the Western Journal reports, the memorial is making its way to Virginia to the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.
“The memorial has been in Tampa because of the Warrior Games, a Paralympic event for America’s wounded warriors,” the report adds.
Veterans & Athletes United’s Fallen Heroes Memorial…with close to 7,000 dog tags from soldiers that gave their lives for our country. Thankful for their service. #woundedwarriors pic.twitter.com/WffPnQD7hh
— Anthony Dougherty 🏴☠️ (@AnthDougherty) June 27, 2019
According to the report, the memorial is made up of nearly 7,000 dog tags of those who have died in Afghanistan and in the War on Terror:
The massive traveling flag, which is broken down into sections when it goes on the road, is 28 feet wide by six feet tall and “symbolizes the shape of the flag when draped on a fallen service members casket,” the VAU website said.
The flag’s construction is unique.
“It is designed out of the close to 7000 dog tags of all those who have fallen in the War on Terror. There are 50 gold stars honoring all gold star families nationwide. Displayed in front of the flag is a battle field cross sculpted from mahogany wood by female veteran artist Alicia Dietz,” VAU said.
“There’s that quote, you die twice in this world. The first time physically when you pass away and then the last time when someone speaks your name. So we hope these names will never be forgotten for the rest of our lives,” Howard said via the Western Journal. “They’ll always be with me, everywhere I go, they are a part of me.”
Here’s more from the Western Journal:
Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.
Gold Star Mother Sonja Stoeckli, whose son, Kyle, was killed in Afghanistan in 2013 at the age of 21, praised Howard for his dedication to see the project through.
“I’m almost overwhelmed with all of the work he put into this. It’s truly amazing. It’s beautiful,” she said.
In June, the group used its Facebook page to send out a Flag Day message.
“As we all take pride in celebrating this flag day and hoisting those flags high across this great country, let us remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy our freedoms. A Heavy price paid to keep this country free and flying under one flag,” the group posted.