Honor and Remember by Rebecca Brittingham

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George Lutz Honor and RememberIt started here in Chesapeake, VA, but has spread across the country. The Honor and Remember campaign was founded by one person, but is impacting an entire nation. In the midst of pain, hurt and confusion, George Lutz used his own loss to touch families across the country. It all started seven years ago with a knock at the door.

The day had been clear and beautiful. A cool breeze fluttered the leaves in Chesapeake, VA while the sun beamed proudly. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary for the Lutz family. Coffee aroma flooded the kitchen, while the sound of breakfast crackled. Dressed in khaki pants and a collared shirt, Lutz was ready to start his day at work as the marketing director for a pizza franchise when the doorbell rang.

Lutz walked to the front door and froze as the unexpected guests broke the news of his son, Tony’s death.  Shattered, he collapsed in utter despair. Nothing could describe the pain that paralyzed him as he choked up with tears.

It was December 29, 2005 when George Anthony Lutz II (Tony) was killed by a sniper’s bullet while serving in the military in Fallujah, Iraq, Lutz was told.  He thought,” The soldiers must have the wrong house, this couldn’t be happening…Not to me.”  

Although not native to this area, Chesapeake has been Lutz’s home since 1980. A graduate of Regent University, he raised his five children here in Chesapeake. His son Tony had been actively involved in Atlantic Shores Christian School before enlisting in the military. Chesapeake was home.

For months after this tragic visit, a heavy cloud of despair hovered over the Lutz household.

“I didn’t do anything,” Lutz said. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to live anymore.” Life stopped.

The memories of watching Redskins football games with Tony and the joys of competing in local running competitions stabbed his heart. Could it really be happening? Never did Lutz imagine that he would be planning the Memorial Service for his 25-year old son.

Friends and family would bring cards, letters, paintings, portraits and other momentums to express their sympathy, but nothing could fill the pain of losing a son.

Several months later, Lutz was in the receiving line at a funeral when he came in contact with a woman who had recently lost her son. As he looked into her sorrowful eyes and said, “I too lost my son. I understand your loss,” the woman threw her arms around his neck and sobbed. As Lutz stood there, he finally realized that through his pain he could bring comfort to other grieving families.

This sent Lutz on a quest to find a universally recognized symbol to honor fallen soldiers. To his dismay, none could be found.  As a father who lost a son, Lutz felt that something needed to be done to pay tribute to all military men and women beyond just one day a year – Memorial Day.  

“If there is a flag to remember those who have been captured,” Lutz said, “there should be a flag to honor those who gave their lives.” Thus the Honor and Remember flag was born four years ago in Chesapeake, VA.  

The Honor and Remember flag, a 3’x5’ handmade flag, reminds allHonor and Remember Flag Americans that freedom comes at a cost, which is paid by the blood of selfless men and women. Each personalized flag is emblazoned with the family member’s name and the date and place of death. Lutz has presented flags to the service members’ families from World War II to Afghanistan.

“This is a very different kind of loss,” Lutz said.  “This is the loss of an individual who selflessly chose to put their life on the line to preserve freedom and is prematurely killed so that we can remain free.”

Since its founding in 2008, Honor and Remember has developed chapters in fourteen states and is looking to expand further. Although Lutz dreamt that it would expand, he never imagined that people would catch the vision and spread it so quickly across the nation.

George Lutz envisions seeing the Honor and Remember Flag flying on every flagpole in every city, town and state across the country. Currently, the flag has been adopted by 15 states and is flying valiantly in spots in all 50 States. However, this isn’t enough. Currently in Congress there is legislation to accept the Honor and Remember Flag as a nationally recognized symbol for all fallen service members.

In addition to flying the flag in every city, Lutz has a vision to present a personalized flag to every family who has lost a loved one in military service as far back as the Korean War. On average, he says, one personalized, hand-made 3X5 flag is presented everyday across the country. In 2011, over 400 flags were presented; yet, still across the nation, tens of thousands of families are waiting for their personalized flag.  

The ultimate goal of Honor and Remember is that the flag will be adopted to fly continuously on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Gold Star Mother’s Day and Veterans Day on the grounds or in the public lobbies of all military installations, as designated by the Secretary of the Defense, all federal national cemeteries, the National Korean War Veterans Memorial, the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the White House, the United States Postal Service post offices and at the offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense and Veteran’s Affairs, and the Director of the Selective Service System. 

As a father who lost a son, every day has become a Memorial Day for him. “I was very proud of my son and his enlistment in the army,” Lutz said. “He believed in what he was doing. The best gift that I can give the families who lost a love one is to get this whole country to appreciate their loss.”  

Honor and Remember seeks to fulfill this vision by partnering with individuals, organizations, corporations and government entities to seek out Gold Star families and to help sponsor and present Honor and Remember Flags.  

Thursday, October 4, Honor and Remember crossed a milestone as the New Jersey Senate unanimously voted in favor of officially adopting this flag as a symbol of remembrance. It is the desire that the flag will be flown at all opportunities in honor of the fallen. 

Honor and Remember will host its third annual Gold-Star Family Banquet on Sunday, December 9th at the Founders Inn and Spa, Virginia Beach.  

It will be an evening of great entertainment and fellowship honoring families of the heroes who gave their lives.  This is an opportunity for the community to come together and remember those families who will never have the opportunity to spend the holiday season with their loved ones.   

While the banquet is free to Gold-star families, tickets are $75 for the general public. Reservations are required.  

For reservations, contact banquet@honorandremember.org or call 757-504-4722.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to Honor and Remember by Rebecca Brittingham

  1. LCDR Gary L. Kimber USNR ret Reply

    October 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Now I know a little more of the background to this memorial flag.
    Thank you for publishing this story of a unique situation, that makes a deep impression on people of this ‘God Fearing’ Nation.
    Do not believe the Liberal Press!

    I honor all of our fine men and women who serve, and will always remember thoughs who have fallen.

    God bless America.

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