INDIANAPOLIS — Saturday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day and organizations across the country as well as those right here in central Indiana are finding ways to salute the service of the brave men and women who wore the stars and stripes while fighting for our freedom in ways both big and small.
There will be parades, free food, other giveaways, and if you’ve ever watched a Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium, you know no gesture is quite as large as the full field flag presentation during the national anthem just before kickoff.
In an exclusive behind-the-scenes look, Justin Kollar joined the man behind the flag with more on how the Colts plan to recognize and honor our military heroes during their “Salute to Service” home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Nov. 26.
It’s hard to miss a flag the size of a football field. What often goes unnoticed is what it takes to unfurl a flag that size, and the man who helps make it happen.
“They talk about goosebumps, right, every time when they start waving that flag they get those goosebumps and it’s a very impactful moment,” said Matt Gonso, better known as the Colts’ “Flag Guy.”
“Yeah, they call me ‘Flag Guy.’ I used to work for the Colts back in 2010, before that, there was no field flag… during the Manning era for big games or playoff games they would actually rent a flag to use, but thanks to Mr. Irsay, and the Irsay famil,y and the Colts organization for having this vision, but they saw that fan engagement on the field and they wanted to do it for every game.”
Before each game the national anthem plays for roughly a minute and 43 three seconds accompanied by the massive flag spanning sideline to sideline, end zone to end zone, but given its size, you can imagine the time needed to prepare.
“We go through the flag rehearsal process three times to kinda get better and improve every single time,” Gonso said. “We need to get on and off the field quickly because everything about the game presentation is very well scripted and timed. But with 14 years under my belt, we’ve gotten better and we continue to get better every game.”
The flag itself measures 150×300 feet and weighs 1,200 pounds. That’s larger than the Greek Temple of Zeus! Thankfully for Gonso, he has his own team of heroes to help–a new cast every week.
“I work with a unique group every single weekend that the Colts have a home game and so a lot of times it’s people that have never done this before,” Gonso said. “We’re kinda teaching them, training them on how to do it just before the game. It’s all for the fans, and the people that are on the flag love it, too. It’s great!”
One person granted the honor to hold the flag on field is Air Force veteran and American Legion Department of Indiana Membership Chairman David Miller, who continues to serve his country today.
“It takes so many of us together, side by side, hand in hand, to take care of one another,” Miller said. “That’s the way we hope to take care of our veterans.”
Hand in hand. Side by side. Four hundred strong.
“There is over an acre of fabric out there,” Miller said. “If holding up that flag doesn’t mean something to you, then you probably shouldn’t be a part of our American Legion.”
Mixed in with the crowd of 400, Miller made room for his daughter to share the special moment with him.
“She is one spot away from me out on the field. Just to share that with her and to have that special family time and to share that here–that’s worth it all,” Miller said.
But that number, 400, pales in comparison to another.
“Every year we have thousands of veterans die from suicide,” Miller said. “If you’re a veteran and you’re having problems we ask you to reach out to IndianaLegion.Org. We can help.”
Because like Miller, and everyone else bound together on the field holding up the flag, you are not alone.
“Everybody putting their hand on the flag at the same time, everybody… it’s a very emotional time to be proud to be an American,” Gonso said. “I get the goosebumps every single time still.”
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
“If this just doesn’t make the short hairs on your back stand up… I mean I get chills out there,” Miller said. “Just to be part of that, to be part of holding the flag, that’s special.”