LOUDONVILLE — The annual drive to remember fallen Capital Region service members launched Monday in Loudonville, where flags will line four miles of Route 9 in their honor.
Tom Regan, founder of Please Remember Me, said 1,900 military personnel from the region have died at war or as a result of wounds suffered in combat zones since World War I. It’s the 10th year the flags have been placed as a way of honoring their memory and showing their loved ones — the Gold Star Families — that they are not forgotten.
“The families themselves, the Gold Star families, are what this is all about,” Regan said. “A lot of young people do not know even what a Gold Star Family means. They live every day with the burden of losing their loved ones.”
One of the speakers Monday was the Rev. Charlene Robbins, whose son Thomas, of Delmar, was killed in Iraq in 2004.
“We laid him to rest on his 28th birthday,” his mother said. “There was a lot of snow but it was appropriate, he liked the outdoors.
“The pain is always there.”
Support from Trustco Bank and members of the community pays for the flags.
National Grid, from which Regan retired after a long career as a lineman, donates the labor of hanging the 165 flags each May before Memorial Day.
The effort doesn’t receive taxpayer funds, so the corporate support has been critical, said Regan, who founded the project in memory of friends who had died in Vietnam.
“They’ve been there since the beginning, they helped us get off the ground,” Regan said of Trustco.
Of National Grid, he said: “They asked me, ‘What do you need?’ I said we have to put brackets on the poles.”
Town Supervisor Peter Crummey said the annual project is a point of pride for Colonie.
“It’s a self-sustaining operation, but it’s one we embrace here. We’re happy to call it home,” he said.
“These guys left it on the field in so many ways and we’re recognizing those Capital Region soldiers … that didn’t get to come home.”
The 165 flags will be erected along Route 9 this month as National Grid volunteers have time to do the work and will be accompanied by photos of service members killed in action. They’ll be taken down after Labor Day and the flags will be retired in a ceremony on Columbus Day at the Crossings town park, also in Colonie, Regan said.