Merriam’s Flags 4 Freedom honors fallen KC law enforcement officers with ‘thin blue line’ flags

Merriam Kansas Flags 4 Freedom
This year’s Flags 4 Freedom display includes five “thin blue line” flags in memory of five law enforcement officers recently killed in the line of duty. Photo credit Jim Russell.

This year’s Flags 4 Freedom patriotic display in Merriam includes five Thin Blue Line American flags to honor the five Kansas City-area law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in Kansas since 2016.

Located at the entrance of Merriam Marketplace, the special flags honor Kansas City, Kansas Police Capt. Robert Melton and Det. Brad Lancaster; Wyandotte County Sheriff’s deputies Patrick Rohrer and Theresa King; and Johnson County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Scott Collins.

Members of Merriam’s police department pose with one of the thin blue line flags. Photo credit city of Merriam.

The Thin Blue Line flags join more than 1,500 American flags as part of the Healing Field display, the first of its kind in the state of Kansas.

An anonymous donor paid for the flags and yellow dedication ribbons, according to the city.

Each year, downtown Merriam and the surrounding area “transforms into patriotic pride” with a display of more than 1,500 American flags at the Merriam Marketplace, Irene B. French Community Center and along Merriam and Johnson drives.

Created by a group of local volunteers, including former city councilman Jim Wymer, who passed away in May, Flags 4 Freedom includes patriotic programs and ceremonies. Flags 4 Freedom began in 2006, with downtown Merriam hosting the first-ever Healing Field of more than 1,200 flags. Thousands of visitors visit the display every year, according to Merriam.

That first year also included a patriotic program with a vintage warplane fly-over on Independence Day. In 2007, Shawnee volunteers joined the Merriam group, which extended the flag display along Johnson Drive into downtown Shawnee.

Chris Evans Hands, who coordinates communications for Flags 4 Freedom, said the group’s mission is “to remember the fallen, honor the serving and celebrate the freedom we so often take for granted.”

Evans Hands said she’s worked on Flags 4 Freedom for 13 years and has a few reasons why she stays involved, especially because the mission is a “strong” one.

“I have strong friendships with the community folks who work together to make it happen,” she said. “I get much joy from watching and talking with the visitors who share their awe and appreciation of our concert, and especially all that red, white and blue.”

Donations from the Flags 4 Freedom event go to the Merriam Parks, Recreation, and Community Center Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that supports Merriam parks, recreation facilities and programs.

The American Legion Band of Greater Kansas City will perform a patriotic concert at 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 4, at the Merriam Marketplace. The concert and patriotic display are free and open to the public.

The flag display ends at 10 a.m. July 7.