Honor Flag not what was advertised

Posted Saturday, Apr. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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kennedy That U.S. Honor Flag?

It isn't.

At least, the U.S. flag used worldwide to honor fallen heroes may never have flown over the Texas Capitol or anywhere else on 9-11, as promoted, the founder of the Honor Network charity now concedes.

After waving his flag's story for 12 years, Chris Heisler, 42, of Fort Worth now says it's not important whether it's true.

"The origin of the flag is not relevant," he said Friday after The Dallas Morning News reported that such a small flag would not have been flown at the Capitol or given away as Heisler describes.

As we talked by phone, he opened and read another of many angry emails: "Here -- 'If you lied about the origin of the flag, then your organization is a lie.'

"It's not about that. It's about the millions of lives that have been touched by that flag. It has honored more than 1,000 heroes."

For Heisler, it was yet another day in damage-control mode.

The week began with the Kaufman County sheriff's spokesman calling Heisler's news-conference criticism of the double homicide investigation there "inaccurate and unauthorized."

In a lengthy Facebook post, the Iraq war veteran and self-described police enthusiast wrote that the News "doesn't seem to get it" about the Honor Flag and that its honor rests not in any Austin past, but in the 6 million miles it has traveled and "how we honor those who have died."

Over the years, Heisler has said the flag was in a package delivered to his home near Houston in October 2001, just before he helped organize a caravan of Texas police and firefighters headed to New York for police and fire memorial services.

He said Friday that the package included U.S. and Texas flags with a note: "For the task ahead of you -- thank you for taking all the officers. Good luck. This is from the Texas House of Representatives."

At other times in dozens of interviews, he has said the flags were arranged as a donation through a House sergeant-at-arms. But the News reported that the Capitol flags are twice the size of Heisler's 6-foot-long flag and are for sale.

(The Texas Constitution bans giving away public property.)

After the flag was used in some of the New York ceremonies, Heisler has said, he kept it to remember 9-11 and as a symbol of honor. Two years later, he took it with him to Iraq.

Since then, the renamed U.S. Honor Flag has taken on a life of its own, flying special-delivery in the pilots' cabin to heroes' funerals and traveling in its own flag-wrapped truck on "Honor Tours."

It is handled with fresh gloves for each memorial and presented in a ceremony with a local band.

"As we speak, that flag is next to a fallen officer in Little Rock," he said.

"That family knows that same flag has flown for hundreds of police officers and firefighters all over the nation."

In 2009, Heisler and friends organized an Austin-based charity named the Honor Network to raise money for flag expenses. Heisler is both board president and chief executive of the charity, which he said has never raised more than $25,000 in a year.

"This is something that started in Texas," he said.

"We should be proud."

Maybe.

But his flag story is mostly windy.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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