Look up. Did you see it? Stars and stripes waving in the air, suspended almost as if it’s part of the sky itself?
When you saw it, did you follow it?
Did you follow the flag?
In 2015, Kyle Fox of Pleasant Grove, Utah decided to follow an idea he had to fly an American flag over Grove Creek Canyon, but it wasn’t just any flag. Fox and a team of rock rigging experts and local volunteers hung a giant flag that could be seen for miles and miles. According to Fox, that one flag would be the start of something bigger than even he could comprehend.
“We chose to surprise our community on July 4 and fly a flag without permission,” Fox said. “What came from it is something that I’ve described as picking us. It has impacted people in ways that we didn’t plan for.”
That first flag, the team named “Little Betsy,” because as the vision grew, so did the flag.
By 2017, a team of volunteers including the late Gail Halvorsen, also known as “The Candy Bomber,” assembled what is now affectionately known as “Big Betsy.” At 400 pounds, 154 feet long, 78 feet wide with 6-feet wide stripes and 5-feet in diameter stars, Big Betsy is the largest American flag that has ever flown in history -- yet it isn’t about that. According to Fox, flying the flag high that first day, and all the days since then has been about giving people hope during times when hope is often lost.
"The Flag Represents Us All"
As word got out about the larger than life flags, the movement began to take flight with many asking to have the flag flown to represent their loved ones lost. That’s when Fox said the “Healing Flights” began.
In 2018, the flag flew its first Healing Flight in North Ogden over Cold Water Canyon in memory of Major Brent Taylor who was killed in Afghanistan on Nov. 3, of that year. This flight that lasted for an entire week, reminded the community of the ultimate sacrifice that many servicemen and women make for America.
The following year in 2019, however, the flag flew for 5-year-old Elizabeth Shelley from Cache Valley, Utah who was tragically lost in a senseless act of violence. The flight brought a mourning community together to work toward healing.
That same year, the team was called to fly a flag in Tucson, Arizona to offer healing to the families who were massacred in La Mora, Mexico. Just last year a flag was flown in Boulder, Colorado to help a community heal after a shooting at a grocery store killed 10 people.
Each flight, Fox says, is about bringing communities together, and he said that the American flag is that thing that represents us all.
“We do this for soldiers and civilians,” Fox said. “We’ve recognized an opportunity for us to give back and combat the darkness and evil that surrounds us in this world. It may be the largest American flag that has ever flown in history, but the title doesn’t mean anything to me. It's the stories that have been told that are so much more important to me than how big the flag really is.”
Visibility Is Key in Bringing the Community Together
While Fox said that it wasn’t about how big the flag is, he said that it is important that the flags be placed where the community can see it.
“Visibility is so important, which is why we love to find canyons to fly in,” Fox said. “The beauty of nature will capture you, and then you add the element of the flag there flying freely. The one thing about flying a flag in the canyon that is different than most, is the setting. You're not seeing a flag on the pole in a grocery store; it’s out in the middle of nature, and the flagpole is a rope. The flag will fly 150 feet in either direction, and when it flies out there, it is like a bird.”
Fox said that he hopes to inspire the next generation of patriots who will fly their respective flags high for years to come.
“We love our country. We’d do anything for our country,” Fox said. “We’re raising the next generation."
“The flag has thousands and thousands of threads, and eventually they start sewing these threads and memories into the fabric. .... I’m just trying to spark those experiences that make you a patriot. What we all have in common is the American flag.”
Follow the Flag
Fox and his “Follow the Flag” team have several upcoming events where the flag will fly for one week. One such event will happen on September 11 in Twin Falls, Idaho. The flag will fly for one week from the Perrine Memorial Bridge in order to give members in the community a chance to experience what it’s like to see it fly in all its glory.
“The spirit of America and all of it just collapses on you. It’s a little bit like Christmas to us because we know what will happen when we unfurl the flag on September 11,” Fox said. “There are running paths along the rim of Twin Falls, so if runners want to run on it, it will be pretty neat.
For more information on how you can follow the flag, or schedule a flag flying in your area, go to followtheflag.org
Author Ari Brown is a mom of nine, trail and ultra runner and freelance writer who has had articles published and syndicated in national publications. In her free time she likes to ... Wait! What free time?
You can find photographer and vidiographer Drew Armstrong's work here: Drew Armstrong Photo and Videography
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