The display honors soldiers who were slain in Iraq and Afghanistan with a total of 750 flags, 294 of which bear the names of Ohioans killed in action.
A cavalcade of bikers will escort the flags to Norwalk on Friday morning. Several motorcycle groups will meet up in the staging area between Ohio 4, Ohio 269 and Pontiac Section Line Road, south of Bellevue. They’ll leave at 8:30 a.m. — heading for Shady Lane.
The Huron County Veteran Services office, led by the Ohio Patriot Guard Riders, will escort the trailer with the flags to Shady Lane Memorial. State patrol, local fire and police will also be involved in the escort.
When the group arrives at the memorial, they will begin planting the over 500 support flags to prepare for the ceremony later in the day. The Veterans’ Service Office asks that anyone wishing to attend the ceremony shows up no later than 6:30 p.m. to secure parking and seating.
Parking attendants will guide drivers to lots around the area, including at Cavalry Baptist Church, Norwalk High School and Elizabeth Gerkin Head Start. For lots farther away, transportation will be provided with vans and golf carts running between the lots and the event.
During the weekend, the loop of Shady Lane Drive will be closed off, but the straightaway will stay open.
The official opening ceremony will be held later at Shady Lane, at 7 p.m. on Friday. Brigadier General Mark Scheid of Tiffin will give the opening speech, Emily Keener will sing the National Anthem and an Eagle Scout will lead attendees in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance among other things.
Huron County Auditor Roland Tkatch and Judge Timothy Cardwell will also be present at the ceremony. Both will read out the names of the fallen soldiers being honored.
“We’ve got to get the word out for people to attend,” said Kenn Rospert, one of the key players in coordinating last year’s Flags of Honor display in Bellevue. This year, he’s working with Huron County Veteran Services to make Norwalk’s event bigger and better-attended than previous ones. Organizers of the Flags of Honor display hope to continue to increase community involvement, he said.
“The Huron County Veteran Services office, they did a great job,” Rospert added. “They actually got a general, Mark Scheid.”
Scheid is a Tiffin native, and more notably, one of the people involved in planning following the Sept. 11 attacks. This year marks the 15th anniversary of that tragedy.
To solemnly honor the occasion, the Huron County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments will bring memorial flags to be presented at the ceremony.
While the event focuses on honoring members of the military and memorializing the lost, Rospert emphasized the importance of families and children attending as well.
“It’s an educational thing,” he said. “You don’t have to be a veteran to participate in it. We really encourage younger kids, school age, as long as they’re responsible to handle a flag properly, to come out the night of the event to place one of those flags.”
Rospert said it was an honor for anyone to plant one of the named flags, saying, “294 boys from Ohio. That’s a heck of a price to pay.”
The display will conclude with a small closing ceremony at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Everyone is welcome to attend as the colors are retired.