Category: Patriot Post

A Gold Star Dad’s Follow the Flag Journey

A Gold Star Dad’s Follow the Flag Journey

February 12, 20204 min read

Written by James Hammon- Gold Star Dad and Devoted Volunteer

I first learned of the small grass roots “Follow The Flag” group back in November of 2018 when the news that our mayor, neighbor and friend Major Brent Taylor had been killed during his deployment in Afghanistan.

My wife Marti and I at the Patriotic Program in North Ogden 2019

The group “Follow The Flag” honored Major Taylor by flying the largest free-flying American Flag here in Coldwater Canyon in North Ogden, where it could be seen as far away as the Interstate, but was magnificent when viewed up close. People were able to drive into North Ogden to view this tribute to our former Mayor and local hero. They came from far and wide, from Utah and surrounding states, in order to see this amazing sight as it appeared as though the flag was floating in the breezes that drifted through the canyon. At night the flag appeared to be floating in the light that illuminated it from dusk til dawn, giving it an ethereal feel of a higher power watching over us all.

Big Betsy flying in Coldwater Canyon Nov. 2018

The logistics of flying such a large flag were unbelievable. The group of volunteers that climbed through the brush in the canyon and set the anchors for this gigantic flag were tireless. Once the flag was deployed into the canyon, it was never left alone. Volunteers made sure the flag was lit at all times and never got tangled or touched the ground. They are the most amazing group of people I have ever had the honor to be associated with.

The first time I saw that flag in 2018, my life was forever changed. “Big Betsy”, as she is called, brings out the patriotism in every American who has ever pledged allegiance to her. I have always considered myself a patriot but my heart was filled with pride for our community. The response of the people to the tragic loss of this soldier inspired a whole new level of patriotism in my heart and mind. Watching her fly day after day and night after night struck a chord within our local group of patriots.

Morning of retrieval 2019-a bitter cold but amazing experience

We then decided that North Ogden needed their own flag to fly for those who have given their lives in service to America and therefore, with many donations and hard work, we were able to purchase our own flag, nicknamed “The Major” after our own local hero. Eight short months after Major Taylor’s death, another local Special Forces Green Beret Sgt. Elliot Robbins was killed in Afghanistan and the “Follow The Flag” group was there to support his family during their time of loss.

US Coast Guard Honor Guard at the funeral of CPO Jared Reaves

My own son, CPO Jared Reaves also died while on active duty in the Coast Guard of Leukemia, and the “Follow The Flag” group was there to escort his remains from Chicago, where he passed away. This group was there when I arrived from saying goodbye to my son in Chicago, filling my yard with flags and the front of my restaurant with as many flags as they could fit in that small area. These flags were lit and cared for until we laid my son to rest. The “Follow The Flag” group surrounded my family with respect and gratitude and honored our son in the way that we felt was fitting for an active service member. Whenever there is an opportunity for the “Follow The Flag” group to hold flags to line a funeral procession for a fallen service member, they are there. No matter the weather, or the distance, or the inconvenience.

CPO Jared Reaves 2/23/1988–7/05/2019

Being a part of this group has been a healing process for me and my family. When we are able to hold a flag and show our gratitude for a service member, it is a small price for us to pay to thank them for their service. We honor all those who serve, past and present, every time we unfurl a flag. After we had taken care of my son’s service I had a huge void in my heart and in my life and for me this is where I learned the true meaning of what FTF stands for and what service really means HONOR~HEAL~INSPIRE.

Serving our local veterans at the Veterans Day parade 2019

I was then asked to join the core team…well let me say this has been the most humbling experience of my life and I am honored to be a part of this team. I’ve been part of the volunteers that flew and retrieved that big beautiful flag(The Major). I’ve been a part of many Flag lines for our fallen warriors and stood side by side with my friends from FTF, the Patriot Guard Riders and so many other patriots from every walk of life. I’ve helped display her at parades, ball games, hockey games. Every time I’m involved with this group of people my sense of patriotism and love for my country grows It’s very humbling to be a small part of group of people like these who’s mission has no agenda other than honoring America and her warriors. This is just my perspective on this group of flag waving patriots

So many people have made this group what it is today and I’m very blessed to have them all in my life!
God Bless America!
James Hammon
Gold Star Dad
North Ogden, Utah

CPO Jared ReavesGold Star FamiliesVolunteer
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