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Draper Journal

United States Honor Flag stops at City Hall to honor Draper’s own

Sep 23, 2019 11:30AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

The US Honor Flag is kept folded and only handled with special white gloves.

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

One year, one month and three days after firefighter Matt Burchett perished while fighting a wildfire in California, the US Honor Flag made a stop at Draper City Hall in his honor. It was one of several stops throughout Utah on Sept. 16 for the flag.

The US Honor Flag arrived with a motorcycle escort, soon followed by several Unified Fire Authority trucks. Fire personnel, police, city employees, family and acquaintances of Burchett gathered on the steps of City Hall to honor his sacrifice. Doug and Connie Hornok of Draper came to show their respect for the flag and for Burchett, a cause near to their hearts because their son is a policeman in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

The US Honor Flag began with Chris Heisler shortly after the 9/11 attacks.  Heisler, a Texas businessman at the time, traveled to Ground Zero with an American flag and a Texas state flag he’d been given. Heisler joined the army in 2003 and took that same American flag to Iraq and Afghanistan during his deployments. He returned home after being injured. Since 2007, the same flag has traveled around the country to honor American heroes, supported by the Honor Network.

Heisler spoke at Draper City Hall. “It is an honor and a privilege for us to be back here with this flag,” he said, adding that “this single American flag” has been at over 1000 funerals, memorials and events all over the United States and has traveled more than seven million miles by ground, by air, and even into space aboard NASA’s last space shuttle mission. He said the flag honors the selfless courage of firefighters, police officers and emergency responders as well as their families, whom he called “incredible people” because they support those who selflessly serve. Heisler spoke of patriotism and “the goodness of what this country is all about, democracy.”

City Manager David Dobbins described the flag’s visit as “a beautiful and touching honor” and noted the city’s losses in both Draper’s fire and police departments. 

“It is humbling to stand here before you in this capacity,” said Draper City Fire Chief Clint Smith. “Matt was a true master of his craft, a leader and a true American hero. Matt has become our own symbol of pride, honor and dedication.” Smith also mentioned policeman Derek Johnson in his remarks, saying the flag “represents honor to two of our own, Derek Johnson and Matt Burchett, who have given that ultimate sacrifice.”

The US Honor Flag travels in a protective case. Because it is brittle, tattered and torn, it is kept folded. Anyone who handles it must wear special white gloves, which they can keep as a memento of the honor of having held the flag and all it represents.