Like soldiers in formation, 600 flags stand proudly outside the Lenexa Christian Center this weekend to represent the commitment veterans have given to their country.
Each flag is dedicated to a specific veteran and carries the name of the man or woman it represents. Although they represent soldiers who served in different wars, in different branches and in different eras, all 600 flags stand in unison.
“They really are heroes,” Gabe Boucher said of the veterans honored in the display. “They have my full respect.”
Boucher, the children’s pastor at the church who spearheaded the effort, said Lenexa Christian Center members nominates veterans for the display. The church at 17500 W. 87th St. Parkway also collected veterans’ names from the community through its website.
“The way they are putting their names out there, that kind of personalizes it,” said Joey Gutierrez, an Olathe resident and church member who nominated both his father and son to be recognized in the display.
He plans to walk out to see the flags, which sit in a lot across from the church, with his father after services on Sunday so the two men can see the tribute together.
“People are going to go out there and try to find their loved ones names,” he said. “It means a lot.”
This isn’t the first time church members have chosen to remember veterans on Memorial Day. They regularly hold a special service during the Memorial Day weekend, but this year they decided to go a step further by bringing a more visible tribute to the entire community.
“This is just honoring our country, you don’t have to go to our church,” Boucher said. “This is all about just honoring people.”
The inspiration for the display came in part from Boucher’s grandma, a patriotic woman who was once a part of the American Legion.
“I would sell poppies with her at the Kmart on Shawnee Mission Parkway,” Boucher said.
She also instilled in her grandson the importance of proper care and etiquette for the American flag and took him to visit the graves of loved ones each Memorial Day. It’s a tradition he’s maintained with his two daughters. They now visit the graves of Boucher’s grandmother and grandfather, who served in World War II.
“They were my heroes,” Boucher said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them, so that’s really important to me.”
He knows his grandmother would be pleased to see all the flags this weekend.
With her words never too far from his mind, Boucher recruited the help of three recent graduates to make sure the flags were meticulously lined up in 20 clean rows of 30.
“I want them nice and straight,” Boucher said. “I think that’s the least we can do.”
Earlier this week the Lenexa Christian Center was still collecting the names of current and former military personnel on its website, www.lcclife.me. Boucher said once the 600 spots were filled, the church would create a list of additional active duty military members to remember in prayer.
The flags are expected to remain on display through Tuesday.