On Sept. 11, 2014, 35 Coast Guard men and women gathered across the Potomac River from the Pentagon to place 184 American flags on Washington’s 14th Street Bridge.
Why, you ask?
The U.S. Coast Guard Flags Across America program, sponsored by the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, gathers on Sept. 11 each year to honor the 184 American patriots who gave their lives on 9/11 at the Pentagon. Sporting t-shirts with the motto, “Our heroes will not be forgotten,” the Flags Across America volunteers remembered American Airlines Flight 77, hijacked by terrorists on 11 September 2001 and crashed into the Pentagon after it took off from Washington Dulles International Airport.
The volunteers, this year numbering 35, secure the American flags to the 14th Street Bridge to remember our fallen. Passing bicyclists, joggers, and drivers shout “Thank you!” or blow their horns with a matching sentiment.
Coined “Flags Across the 14th Street Bridge,” the event has inspired Coast Guard volunteers and their families since its inception in 2002.
This year’s program began with an invocation by Cmdr. Steven Barstow, Coast Guard Headquarters chaplain. Following were remarks by Flags Across America committee chair Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Jarbeck, Flags Across America founder retired Chief Warrant Officer Ed Kruska, retired Capt. Lou Farrell, Flags Across the 14th Street Bridge project officer Chief Petty Officer Mary Brooks; and retired Coast Guard Reserve Force Master Chief Petty Officer Mark Allen.
Flags Across America also places Coast Guard flags on Coast Guard veterans graves at Arlington National Cemetery annually on Flags Across America Day, usually the Saturday preceding Veterans Day.