TERRE HAUTE —
Though the temperature hovered near 90 degrees, dozens of volunteers gathered outside Memorial Stadium late Wednesday afternoon to place 6,850 small flags in memory of fallen veterans.
The volunteers, organized in four teams, placed the two-foot flags 181⁄2 inches apart on both sides of the Indiana Veterans Memorial Mile trail.
The display honors fallen heroes from post-9/11 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wabash Valley Run for the Fallen, now in its fourth year, is intended “to give people a visual reminder of the immense sacrifice that has been made,” said Olivia Goulding, event organizer.
The flags will remain along the trail through Wednesday evening, and a flag ceremony is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday.
There are a few changes this year.
Names of the fallen will be listed on several banners placed along the trail. In past years, names were individually attached to each flag.
Also, while there will not be an organized run this year, the public is invited to walk, run or bike the trail throughout the week.
“People can come at their leisure,” Goulding said. “That way, they can take the opportunity to stop and read the names on the banners.”
In making some changes, the idea was to simplify the event “and get back to the real meaning of what we were trying to accomplish, and that was simply to give people a visual reminder,” she said.
At the very least, she encourages people to drive by. Even from the street, “you can see the immensity of what’s happening,” she said.
Among those volunteering Wednesday were Jackie and Bill Pastorius of Fontanet. They’ve seen the display in the past and found it so moving, they decided to help out. “It’s the least we could do,” she said. “We felt compelled to do this.”
Walking the trail and seeing thousands of small flags “breaks your heart,” Jackie Pastorius said. Each flag represents a human life lost.
“But you must understand they did it for love of country and for our freedoms. If it wasn’t for them, we would not be free,” she said.
Also assisting was Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Basch, who was injured while in Afghanistan. He participated to honor the memory of six fallen heroes he knew personally, service members he trained or fought alongside.
“I’m here to honor them and everyone else who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Basch said.
Others volunteering included Vigo County School Corp. Junior ROTC students, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, service members, veterans and people from the community who “just care,” Goulding said.
For some of the volunteers, it was their fourth year to help out. “It’s so gratifying to see the dedication these people have,” she said.
She started Wabash Valley Run for the Fallen in 2010 to honor a friend, U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Griffin, a Terre Haute native killed in Afghanistan, and also to honor Griffin’s family.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.