Fort Lee Soldiers support flag planting at Virginia War Memorial
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pfc. Maxequiel Caez, Delta Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion, plants one of nearly 12,000 U.S. flags that were eventually placed on the hillside of Richmond’s Virginia War Memorial June 24. The flags honor Virginia’s war dead dating back to World War II. Caez and 24 or of his Delta Co. battle buddies and more than 100 others volunteered for the task. (photo by T. Anthony Bell). (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Lee Soldiers support flag planting at Virginia War Memorial
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Rodriguez and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Phillips – Delta Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion drill sergeants – distribute U.S. flags to company Soldiers during the Hill of Heroes event at Richmond’s Virginia War Memorial June 24. Twenty-five Delta Co. troops helped to stake nearly 12,000 flags honoring those uniformed Virginians lost from War World II to today (photo by T. Anthony Bell). (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Lee Soldiers support flag planting at Virginia War Memorial
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pvt. Cody Williams, Delta Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion, heads to a designated area during the Hill of Heroes flag planting event June 24 at Richmond’s Virginia War Memorial. Williams and 24 Delta Co. volunteers helped to plant more than 12,000 flags on a hillside at the facility (photo by T. Anthony Bell). (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Lee Soldiers support flag planting at Virginia War Memorial
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pvt. Bobby Gourde, Delta Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion, gets directions from a battle buddy on the proper alignment of U.S. flags during the Hill of Heroes event June 24 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond (photo by T. Anthony Bell) . (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Lee Soldiers support flag planting at Virginia War Memorial
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Flags adorn the grounds of the Virginia War Memorial during the Hill of Heroes event June 24. The flags honor the nearly 12,000 uniformed Virginians lost from War World II to today (photo by T. Anthony Bell). (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

RICHMOND, Va. – Pfc. Christian French did not appear tired and neither did any of his battle buddies, even though they should have been been.

The Delta Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion, Soldiers had just completed a volunteer project during the early morning hours of June 24 in which they helped plant nearly 12,000 American flags on a Virginia War Memorial hillside.

“It is a great honor to come out on this hill and pay tribute to the 12,000 fallen Virginians from World War II to present day; placing the flags along with everybody else in the community,” said 20-year-old French afterward. “We’re doing something to honor the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.”

The Soldiers also were “doing something” to support VWM’s Hill of Heroes display – the centerpiece of an annual two-week observance that’s meant to bring the community together in memory of Virginia’s fallen. The memorial conducted a family day event on June 25 that featured Army equipment and training displays, also provided by Fort Lee, along with live music, food trucks, craft activities for kids, and more.

To support Hill of Heroes, the Ordnance School Soldiers had to lose a few hours of sleep. They are night students who completed a classroom training session at 2 a.m. the morning of the event and likely would have been asleep in the barracks had it not been for the volunteer effort.

“They woke up early to come out here to put these flags out,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Phillips, one of two drill sergeants accompanying the troops. “Now, they have to go back (to the barracks) and get more sleep before going to school this evening.”

In planting the flags, 25 Fort Lee Soldiers worked with roughly 75 civilians, including youth scout troop members, to cover a steep hill providing a scenic view of Richmond’s downtown skyline. The job was quickly completed, and it was a thoroughly energizing experience, according to Pfc. Jay Ivy of Delta Co.

“This is a big morale booster for us and the community as a whole,” said the 23-year-old from Princeton, West Virginia. “It is things like this that bring the community together. It gives us the sense we all bleed red, white and blue.”

In addition to lifting the spirits of participants, Hill of Heroes became a touchpoint for what it means to be an American, at least for Dimetra Rodgers and her family.

“We think it is important for our children to see and understand the purpose of the memorial and to show patriotism and respect for the country,” said the area resident, accompanied by her husband and three boys.

Benjamin King, VWM’s director of operations, said the sight of uniformed military members placing flags alongside civilians on the hill added something special to the occasion.

“They bring to the table the fact the warrior community has the same, big open-heartedness as the civilian community,” he said. “We’re all one team; we just work at different parts of the community, but we all come together and do amazing things.”

The Hill of Heroes flag display runs through July 8.

The Virginia War Memorial is the state’s “premier monument, museum, and educational center dedicated to Virginians who served to defend the United States from World War II through today,” according to its website.

The VWM operating hours are Monday thru Saturday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; and Sunday, noon - 4 p.m. For other details, visit vawarmemorial.org or call 804-786-2176.