Father who lost son to war hopes to make flag lasting symbol
By DAVID HODGE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 3, 2010
RAF MILDENHALL, England — In December 2005, George Lutz received news that his son, Cpl. George Anthony “Tony” Lutz, was fatally shot by a sniper’s bullet in Fallujah, Iraq.
In the months that followed, Lutz and his family sought out families who had lost a loved one in war, trying to find some comfort.
But Lutz, a Gold Star family member, said he felt he needed something more to honor his son, and all of those who died while serving in the armed forces.
He designed the Honor and Remember flag, and for the last two years has been on a campaign to make the flag a national symbol.
So far, two states have passed legislation to adopt the flag, and a bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would do the same on a national level.
“The Honor and Remember flag is a silent, but tangible, public reminder that specifically recognizes the military lives lost in defense of our national freedoms,” said Lutz, who lives in Chesapeake, Va., and runs the nonprofit organization Honor and Remember Inc. The flag honors all who died during service to their country, whether in combat or a training accident in garrison.
So far this year, lawmakers in Virginia and Oklahoma have passed legislation declaring the flag an official state symbol.
In Oklahoma, Sen. Bill Brown and Rep. Dan Kirby, both Republicans, authored the legislation to adopt the flag.
“It is our hope that this gesture of recognition will remind the families of our servicemen and women that the sacrifices of their loved ones were not in vain, and that they will not be forgotten,” Brown said in a news release.
Brown is familiar with the sacrifices made by family members. His father died during combat in World War II when he was only two months old.
“As someone who has lost a family member in combat, I don’t want my children to forget the sacrifice that was paid by their grandfather,” Brown wrote.
Lutz says he has gotten commitments from other state representatives to vote on measures to adopt the flag during their next sessions. He has set out on a cross-country trip in hopes that one day he will see his flag flying over all 50 state Capitol buildings.
“I believe strongly in what I’m doing,” Lutz said from his motor home while traveling from Iowa to Wisconsin. “I see my goal.”
Lutz began his nationwide journey from Virginia on June 7 and will conclude it with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day. So far, he has visited 28 states. At every stop, he says he has received commitments to adopt the flag or to endorse House Resolution 1034, which would recognize the Honor and Remember flag as a national symbol.
HR 1034 was introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes , R-Va., in 2009, and is supported by the Military Officers Association of America, according to Forbes’ website. The bill has been referred to a House subcommittee.
Lutz’s campaign does have its critics.
Some blogs argue that the American flag already stands for those who have lost their lives.
But Lutz says, “The American flag is part of everything we do as a nation. It’s the symbol that defines everything about us.”
Plus, the nation has a flag to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action, so “why not have a flag that remembers our fallen?” he asks.
At each stop along his cross-country trip, Lutz has been presenting Gold Star families with a personalized flag bearing the name of the servicemember, date of death and campaign in which they served.
He hopes to present every Gold Star family with a personalized flag, he said.
During a recent ceremony in Bismarck, N.D., Lutz presented four flags to Gold Star families.
One of the recipients, Dina Ferderer, lost a son, Spc. Dennis James “DJ” Ferderer, on Nov. 2, 2005, while he was deployed to Iraq.
“Right now, the flag means the world to me,” said Ferderer, who has another son, John, in the Air Force.
The Ferderers keep their Honor and Remember flag in a separate room inside their house with other mementos of DJ and fly a separate flag in front of their house, next to Old Glory.
“The (Honor and Remember) flag tells us that DJ did not die in vain,” explained Ferderer. “We’re thankful of George and his flag. We needed it. It was long overdue.”
Approaching the midway point of his five month, 17,000-mile trek across the country, Lutz is still garnering support for his campaign and signatures for his petition. But the flag is no longer “his” … it has become the public’s flag, he said.
The flag, along with pins, shirts and hats are for sale on Lutz’s website: www.honorandremember.org. All profits from flag sales go to pay for the flags given to other Gold Star families, Lutz said. A review of tax returns provided by Lutz shows that more than 75 percent of the profits go to support Honor and Remember Inc.’s mission.
George Lutz (right of flag) presents a personalized Honor and Remember flag to family members of Pfc. Jason Meyer, who was killed in Iraq in 2003. Lutz, who lost a son in Iraq, designed the flag, and for the last two years has been on a campaign to make it a national symbol recognizing servicemembers lost in the war zones.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGE LUTZ