Eight years ago, Sergeant Christopher Reyka was killed in the line of duty
in Broward County, Florida.
At his funeral, a special flag—now known as the U.S. Honor Flag—made
its way to South Florida to honor the fallen officer.
Since then, the U.S. Honor Flag has memorialized fallen American heroes
aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, over Ground Zero, in state capitols, at
the Pentagon, in presidential libraries, at state and national memorials,
and at many funerals and tributes, including the recent memorial of fallen
Carson City deputy Carl Howell on Thursday, August 20.
Over the years, it has logged over seven million miles honoring thousands
of fallen police officers, firefighters, first responders and those serving
on active combat duty in the military.
Sunday, August 2, the flag was traveling from Texas to California where
it would honor yet another fallen peace officer. As the security detail
traveling with the flag neared Humboldt County, they called dispatch asking
for additional escorts.
Dispatchers called Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Captain Kevin
Malone, who immediately sent two units to escort the group from Button
Point to the Humboldt County Detention Center.
At the facility, Honor Flag officers showed local officers the flag, which
travels in a 125-pound vault and has six microchips embedded in its fabric;
the microchips can track the flag’s location from anywhere in the world.
The Honor Flag contingent also briefed officers on the flag’s beginnings
and its significance to the nation.
As the men relayed their information, Captain Malone said a name caught
his attention. One of the officers had mentioned that the first Honor
Flag commemoration happened at the funeral of a Sergeant Christopher Reyka
Captain Malone said, “I thought no way, that is not a popular name.”
He told the officers that one of his good friends was a local man named
Mark Reyka and that Mark had told him that his brother had been killed
in the line of duty in Florida.
The officers called some of their contacts and, after a few minutes, confirmed
that Christopher Reyka’s brother was Mark Reyka, a resident of Humboldt
County and a nurse anesthetist at Humboldt General Hospital.
So Captain Malone made a very special phone call. “Can you come meet
me?” he asked Mark, “I have something to show you.”
Within minutes, Mark Reyka arrived at the detention center where the Honor
Flag officers kindly showed him the flag and then gifted him two pairs
of USHF white gloves—special commemorative gloves that handle the
flag at each memorial service and are then given to family members of
Because Christopher Reyka’s funeral was the first to receive the
honor flag, Mark Reyka and his family had never received the gloves, as
they were not part of the ceremony at that time. One pair of the gloves
will stay with Reyka, while the second pair will go to Christopher’s
widow in Florida.
“I was totally blown way,” said Reyka of his reaction to Captain
Malone’s phone call. “If Kevin had not opened his mouth, this
never would have come together. I can’t tell you how indebted I
am to Kevin Malone.”
Reyka added, “And I give the Lord his credit, too. This has his fingerprints
all over it.”
Honor Flag officials were touched by the reunion of the flag with the brother
of its first honoree.
Chris Heisler who heads up “The Honor Network,” the group that
schedules the flag to travel to its various destinations, said, “That
is such an amazing story; we are so honored to have been able to make
a connection with Mark Reyka.”
Humboldt General Hospital made a donation to the U.S. Honor Flag in honor
of Sergeant Christopher Reyka to help bring the flag to Reno last month
where it would honor Carl Howell.
Mark Reyka, who has now had a few weeks to process his encounter, said,
“I’m still just taking it all in. It’s been a very emotional
thing for me.”
Then he joked, “For once, I am grateful for having such an unusual