Hundreds of American flags adorned the streets of California in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Hill on April 26.
Hill, 22, died on April 15 after suffering injuries from a car crash in Oakwood, Oklahoma. According to his obituary, he was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma with the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery and 75th Artillery Brigade. He also served two deployments in South Korea. Hill was originally a resident of Eldon.
Members from the organization, The Flagman's Mission Continues, traveled from O'Fallon, Illinois, to help the city honor Hill's life as his friends and family prepared for his funeral on Wednesday at Bowlin-Cantriel Funeral Services.
"We're contacted anytime there's an active duty death. We're normally contacted from the Kansas City office ... they'll contact us and let us know about it," Flagman's Mission Continues President and CEO Jeff Hastings said. "And then we'll reach out to the family, the funeral director and the casualty officer, and we'll reach out and get their permission."
Hastings said his organization covers a 400-mile radius across eight states. its coverage includes Illinois, Missouri and Indiana and parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kansas.
"When his family showed up here yesterday for the funeral service, they were just overwhelmed and in tears, and they started thanking us for bringing the flags and setting up the flags," Hastings said. "I said, 'Don't thank us. Thank your community because your community came out and made this happen.' All we do is provide the equipment and tools and stuff."
The Flagman's Mission Continues invites residents from the area to plant each flag as a community project with no sign up or commitment. All Hastings and his fellow members asked for was volunteers to show up with gloves and walking shoes.
Ultimately, volunteers planted, and later removed, 420 flags placed along the memorial route from the funeral home to California City Cemetery.
"The families--they're grieving. They're grieving really bad and they're numb, especially with these young deaths," Hastings said. "They're so numb to everything going on. But I can promise you this - because of their community, five years, a year from now, 10 years from now, the one thing they will always remember about their loved one's funeral was their community came together and set these flags up for their loved one. In honor of their loved ones. And that's all that matters to us."
Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — Family and friends follow a hearse April 26 carrying Sgt. Johnathan Hill, an active United States Army member who died April 15 in a car crash, from Bowlin-Cantriel Funeral Services to his final resting spot at California City Cemetery. Volunteers helped line the streets on the procession route with American flags in his honor.
Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — A former ambulance used by The Flagman's Mission Continues, an organization that helps prepare for the funerals of active duty military members, travels April 26 down Oak Street during the funeral procession from Bowlin-Cantriel Funeral Services to California City Cemetery.
Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — Flags blow in the wind April 26, lining Oak and Buchanan streets from Bowlin-Cantriel Funeral Services to California City Cemetery in honor of Sgt. Johnathan Hill, an active duty United States Army sergeant who died April 15 in a car wreck in Oklahoma. Volunteers helped The Flagman's Mission Continues, an organization that assists with funerals of active duty military members, install more than 400 flags on the funeral procession route.