Flags for Our Fallen

Tempe-based RidersUSA and the Honoring America’s Veterans is hosting Flags for Our Fallen Memorial Day Rally. (Rusty Childress/Contributor)

Memorial Day honors members of the military who died while serving their country. According to the National Archives, starting just after the Civil War ended, Memorial Day, then known as Dedication Day, was established. The last Monday of May was chosen because flowers would be blooming across the nation to honor the fallen soldiers. 

This year marks Memorial Day’s 150th celebration. On May 29, the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona will celebrate it with Tempe-based RidersUSA and the Honoring America’s Veterans. 

The RidersUSA event, Flags for Our Fallen, officially starts at sunrise runs through 8 a.m. Members from Riders USA and their friends at Arizona Central T-Buckets will border Cave Creek and Pinnacle Peak roads on their motorcycles to salute the family and friends visiting veterans. It takes three days to set up, as 500 flags will be placed on 10-foot poles along the roads. Each flag is sponsored by a $10 donation and flown with a ribbon attached to it with a fallen soldier’s name. 

RidersUSA founding member and past president Tim Rafferty said when the event started 17 years ago, 10 to 15 bikes lined the cemetery’s cross section. It has since grown to about 200 participants from members to the general public.

“It’s RidersUSA’s way of honoring the veterans and their family members. It’s them who we’ll never forget,” Rafferty said. 

The Flags for Our Fallen event functions as a grand entrance to a ceremony hosted by Honoring America’s Veterans. That event starts at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona at 8 a.m. after a missing man formation — an aerial salute performed at funerals and memorial events — flies over the cemetery. In the past, the ceremony consisted of volunteers and family members placing flags at grave markers, three-gun salutes, color guard presentations and a keynote speaker. This year’s speaker is RJ Mitchell, a Marine veteran who was given the Navy cross, the second highest award for heroism, in 2006 for his combat tours and deployments in Iraq. He has been pursuing his degree at ASU while working and supporting his family.  

The National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona is affiliated with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which focuses on mental health and stability by offering crisis lines, therapy, grants and programs all aimed toward keeping service members healthy. 

With the funds it raises from flag sponsorships, RidersUSA allows its members to vote on which veterans organizations to donate to and they attend other celebrations like Veterans Day parades and National Vietnam War Veterans Day events. Honoring America’s Veterans’ signature event is the Arizona Veterans Day Parade.

Flags for Our Fallen Memorial Day Rally

WHEN: 6 to 10 a.m. Monday, May 29

WHERE: National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, 23029 N. Cave Creek Road, Phoenix

COST: Free 

INFO: ridersusa.net