'Each flag represents an officer that paid the ultimate price': Fallen-officer tribute comes to South Elgin

Standing amid a sea of 1,170 American flags in a South Elgin park, police officer Jim Creighton stopped to talk about what each one signified.

“Knowing that each flag is a person — a husband, a wife, a daughter, a son — is just remarkable,” said Creighton, a community relations officer with the South Elgin Police Department. “Each flag represents an officer that paid the ultimate price.”

The Flags of Honor Fallen Officer Tribute will be on display until Sunday at Panton Mill Park in South Elgin. It has 1,170 flags in honor of the 1,154 police officers and 16 police dogs killed while on duty throughout Illinois history.

The four-day event, presented by True Patriots Care, opened Thursday and will feature a candlelight vigil and roll call of officers on Friday. Other events are planned throughout the weekend. Money raised during the event benefits Concerns of Police Survivors and the 100 Club of Illinois.

Jerry Christopherson of True Patriots Care, a former police commissioner in Carpentersville and an Army veteran, said the honor is for a group of people who “have certainly gotten beaten up the past few years.”

“They leave their home every day to go to work, and there's no guarantee they're coming back,” Christopherson said. “We just need to honor them and thank them for what they do.”

It took about 60 volunteers roughly 3½ hours to install all the flags and poles on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, they finished attaching tags to each flag. Each tag has the name, department and date of death of a fallen officer. Lights have been installed around the park to illuminate the flags each night.

True Patriots Care, in its 13th year, has done a number of similar events over the years, including the Sept. 11 memorial Healing Field in Oak Brook last year and The Wall That Heals Vietnam Memorial in West Dundee in 2019.

Christopherson said they also make sure that area funeral homes, churches and cemeteries are adorned with American flags when they have a service for a veteran or an active duty or retired police officer.

“When a politician or a sports guy or a movie star dies, it's a big deal,” he said. “It should be just as big a deal when a veteran or police officer dies.”

The schedule of events for the weekend includes speakers, honor guards and music each day. There will be an Officer Down Tribute 5K walk/run and Touch-a-Truck on Saturday, and an Officer Down Tribute Motorcycle Run on Sunday.

The schedule is on the True Patriots Care website. The closing ceremony starts at 1 p.m. Sunday.

  Jim Creighton, a community relations officer with the South Elgin Police Department, attaches a placard with the name of an Illinois police officer who died in the line of duty to one of the 1,170 American flags on display at Panton Mill Park in South Elgin Thursday. Rick West/
  Among the 1,170 American flags on display at Panton Mill Park in South Elgin is one honoring Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, who was killed in the line of duty in 2018. Rick West/
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