COLONIE, N.Y.--For commuters travelling on Route 9, there will be a very noticeable, very patriotic, change to the scenery beginning Friday morning. As a part of ‘Operation: Please Remember Me,' 120 full-size American flags will adorn the utility poles along the road from the city line in Albany to its intersection with Route 155.
Beginning at 3:30 Friday morning, the project's founders Tom Regan and Gene Loparco joined approximately 30 National Grid volunteers in hanging the flags, each of which represents ten men and women who gave their lives in combat for this country.
Tom Regan said he was inspired to begin this project because he felt there was a need in the community for people to have a way to say "thank you" for that sacrifice. Regan lost four of his high school friends in the Vietnam war, but said that there are more than 1,200 service men and women from the Capital Region who also lost their lives and each of them has a story to tell.
"This project not only gives everyone a way to say 'thank you,' but it also serves as a reminder of what we often take for granted," Regan said. "It's important for people who have never had their sons, brothers or friends come home to honor them and remember them as time goes on."
After nearly eight months of fundraising and going door-to-door spreading the word about their effort, Regan and Loparco have finally seen their efforts come to fruition Friday when those flags were raised along the old military route.
A motorcade procession is scheduled to temporarily shut down the road from noon to 1:30 pm on Saturday, May 18th, marking the official community acknowledgement of the flags and the people they represent. They will remain hanging until Thursday, July 6.
"We don't want people to get so used to seeing them that they lose their meaning," Regan said. "The longer they're up, the more accustom people will grow to seeing them and then the purpose of remembrance is lost.
Regan is now working with the city to include the flags in the 2013 Memorial Day Parade.
"Rather than them just sitting in storage until next spring, I want to give the families of the fallen young men and women the chance to carry the flags in the parade," Regan said.