Please Remember Me: A Veterans Day 2023 Surprise
We first started working with Please Remember Me back in 2012 when Tom Regan stopped into our store looking for information. He was troubled, worried that people were too quick to forget the soldiers who fought and died for our country. A Navy veteran himself, Tom had lost several friends who gave their lives in combat during the Vietnam War and he wanted to find a way to honor them. He wanted to help people remember these fallen soldiers in the same way he did, as wonderful young men who had bright futures snuffed out by a premature end.
Tom had an idea of hanging flags for each of his friends along a busy roadway. He quickly realized that if he felt that way about his friends, there must be others who were in danger of being forgotten. How many soldiers had died in World War II that might be forgotten? How many in Korea or the War on Terror? Tom did research and put together a list, too large and too tragic to contemplate, of all the service personnel from the Albany area who perished in conflict from WWII onwards. He realized his endeavor would be much larger than just honoring four friends; the list had grown to include over 1200 names. The idea of Please Remember Me was formed with the resolution that these soldiers would not be forgotten.
Starting each Memorial Day as you drive down Route 9 from the border of Albany to the heart of Latham, you will see a beautiful display of American Flags on each telephone pole. Each flag is adorned with a double black mourning streamer to signify that these flags are constantly at half staff to honor our fallen soldiers. People may take it for granted now; the beautiful display shows up yearly, professionally done. They may or may not know about the meaning behind the flags, but they appreciate the patriotism and beauty the flags lend the landscape. It was not always this way.
Tom, along with the assistance of his partner Gene Loparco, bootstrapped the project at first. They used their own funds and volunteered countless hours to get the initial display started. Tom engineered the hardware; The Department of Transportation (DOT) required special heavy duty brackets to hang above the roadway. The poles had to be just the right length so the flags would clear the telephone poles on a windy day without getting snagged and torn. The angle of the bracket had to be just right for the display to look the way it should as you drive along. The mourning ribbons needed to be doubled so they would hang on both sides of the flag to be seen from both directions of traffic. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.
Meanwhile, Gene started a website to promote the idea and took thousands of photos. He issued press releases and promoted the efforts to the media. They engaged with the community, going to events and schools to spread their message to the kids - to plead with them - Please Remember the ones who fought and died. They were just like you once, and now they are gone. Remember, so that you may not have to make the same sacrifice, and if you should, you too will be remembered. They promoted a simple and powerful message that matters and resonated with the community.
We have been happy to work with them over the years and have grown as a company as they have grown as an organization. This year we wanted to honor a local Vet for Veterans Day with something special. We brainstormed - what about installing a flagpole as a surprise for a Veteran? Yes, great idea we all said. Who then? Tom immediately came to mind as the only real choice. We also knew that while his organization has purchased thousands of flags from us over the years, he himself flew a small house mounted style pole, so he didn’t already have an in-ground pole. Someone who clearly loves our country and his countrymen as much as this should have a beautiful in-ground flagpole in front of his home, flying Old Glory proudly. The decision made, our team here worked some back channels to reach out and connect with one of his sons to coordinate the surprise and, well, you can see the resulting video of the reveal for yourself below.
One thing we wanted to mention is that Tom kept thanking us for the flagpole and for the surprise - but he definitely had that backwards. We owe the thanks - not just to Tom, but to all the Veterans who gave and continue to give for our country. Veterans Day is a day of commemoration, to honor those among us who risked it all and are still here and also to celebrate the memory of those who aren’t. To Tom and all our veterans, the team here at Gettysburg Flag thanks you for all that you have done and continue to do and we wish you all a Happy Veterans Day.
In Tom's Own Words
“The flags should speak for themselves once they’re up,” Tom said. Keeping the flags up for only a limited amount of time gives people the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the sacrifices of those within our own communities, rather than driving by the same flags everyday and never giving them a second thought. It is a striking experience to drive the four and a half mile stretch once you know that each flag you pass represents ten veterans from the Capital Region who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Take a look at the video that we put together about surprising Tom with a brand new flag pole for Veteran's Day in 2023. In it, he explains the reason he actually began this incredible project.
Recently, Gettysburg Flag Works surprised Tom with an in-ground flagpole of his own. We truly appreciate all the work that he has done for the area and it was a pleasure surprising him in person. Take a look at his reaction to us showing up at his house and giving him the news!
The last video we made for the special moment was a compilation of moments where he was surprised, happy, or thankful. We are so happy we got to share this special moment with Tom. Something tells us that he won't forget this day for a long time!
Last, but certainly not least... we were able to capture a few great photos for you to enjoy!