November 2007 Issue
A Fitting Tribute
It started out as a way for one family to honor a soldier who gave his life in the name of freedom. But today, the Ohio Flags of Honor Foundation is touching the hearts of people throughout the state.
The project was the idea of Gino and Lisa Zimmer of Powell, whose son, Nick, was killed on May 30, 2004, while serving in the U.S. Army in Kufa, Iraq. The couple decided to channel their grief into a way that would help them cope with the loss by organizing a display of flags to commemorate the lives of those felled in battle. The traveling exhibit pays homage to the men and women from Ohio killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Each Ohioan is represented by an American flag with a black ribbon, stenciled with the soldier’s name and flown on a 10-foot-high pole. Over the past three years, the Ohio Flags of Honor –– funded by a nonprofit organization the Zimmers chair –– has visited nearly every corner of the state, forging a bond between families who have lost loved ones.
“I think we help each other,” Lisa says. “It’s a hard journey to travel. I had one mother say to me when she was standing next to her son’s flag that she hadn’t felt as close to him since he passed as she did at that moment.”
The flags also touch the communities they visit, as dozens of volunteers help at each stop. The foundation’s Web site, www.ohioflagsofhonor.org
, is run by Dan Lambert of Columbus, who has become a close friend of the Zimmers.
“We can’t do it without help,” Gino says. “I would like to express my thanks for that. It’s an entire group of people, strangers to start with, who come together, and it turns out to be a beautiful show. Our son’s death was a tragedy, but it created a miracle.”
“They view it as a way to participate and be part of the fallen families’ lives,” Lisa adds. “It’s a great way for the communities to be part of the support system.”
A support system that has been a source of strength to the Zimmers.
“Nick is on my mind quite often every day,” Gino says of his son, who was 20 years old when he died. “But now it’s a different kind of pain –– it brings a smile instead of a tear.”
For more information about the Ohio Flags of Honor Foundation, visit the Web site or call 888/771-7626.
— Steve Herrick