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Bigfork foundation presents flag display to remember 9/11

by JEREMY WEBER
Daily Inter Lake | September 11, 2021 12:00 AM

They sit just below a scenic barn to the north of Bigfork, catching the morning sun and lit up by floodlights in the evening.

A collection of 300 American flags wave in the wind, displayed in the field below the enormous flag that adorns the side of the barn, there to honor and remember loved ones, particularly ones who served in the military.

Each of the 300 flags in the Bigfork Field of Honor is an opportunity to honor a loved one while helping raise money for charity, according to Bill Thomas, president of the 9/11 Honor and Serve Foundation.

“All of this was done to grab attention for the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I believe that this is an important event, but with all that is going on right now it would have been really easy for it to get pushed aside,” Thomas said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘what can we do to grab more attention for this anniversary?’

“My partner, Doug Averill, is leasing this farm to turn it into an educational farm to teach children about farming,” Thomas said. “So, I pitched the idea to him in January of using this beautiful 100-year-old barn that already has the American flag on it. I said, what if we fill this field full of flags?”

And so the work began to place the rebar and PVC pipe that hold each of the 300 flags, all set 5 feet apart in perfect rows.

The flag project is a partnership with the Field of Honor Rally Project. Each $30 flag dedication helps raise money for this year’s charities of choice — Heroes and Horses and The Paladin Conservancy.

“There is nobody that works for us that makes any money,” Thomas said. “We don’t bring money in for ourselves. What we do is to draw in crowds and make money for other charities.”

With just over 100 of the flags already dedicated, Thomas is hoping more people will come forward to claim flags, which will be folded and presented to those families that wish to keep them after the foundation’s annual 9/11 memorial event, which is set to take place next to the barn Saturday, Sept. 11, at 4 p.m. at Wrangler Springs Ranch, 6850 Montana 35 in Bigfork. The event is free and open to the public.

It is Thomas’ hope that the Field of Honor and the memorial ceremony will help bring back the spirit of unity he and the country felt after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“People can’t tell you what they were doing last week, but they can tell you where they were that day, right down to the smallest detail. I was thinking back to the aftermath of that day and how everyone had a flag. They were displayed on houses and businesses and cars. They were everywhere.

“Everyone had a flag and we all came together,” Thomas said. “That’s the feeling that we are trying to bring back. We are not a political organization. We don’t pick one side or the other. We just want people who want to remember what happened on 9/11 to have a place where they can go to do that. We want this to be something that the people of Bigfork can be proud of.”

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 406-758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com.

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With 300 American flags on display just north of Bigfork off Highway 35, the 9/11 Honor and Serve Foundation is partnering with the Field of Honor Rally Project to help raise funds for Heroes and Horses and The Paladin Conservancy. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)