U.S. Honor Flag Finds Very Special Connection with HGH Staff Member

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 in Florida.

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 the deceased.

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 name.”