Chris Heisler’s U.S. Honor Flag — which he says has journeyed across the nation, to Iraq, into space and back again — has been Heisler’s ticket into several high-profile news stories in North Texas, including the slaying of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland.
Rightfully so, Heisler said — it’s a special flag.
“Once people hear the story of the flag, they’re amazed by it,” said Heisler, 42, CEO of the nonprofit Honor Network, which pays tribute to law enforcement personnel and other people killed in the line of duty.
But his oft-repeated story that his U.S. flag first flew over the Texas Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001, doesn’t appear to add up in large part because the flag is too small, state officials said.
And Heisler said he doesn’t have any documentation of the flag’s early years.
There could be a good reason why he can’t find the certificate authenticating the flag, Texas Preservation Board spokeswoman Karen Short said: The Texas House didn’t send him one.
“It just isn’t possible that the Legislature gave him an American flag,” she said. “I’m sorry to say that this gentleman is confused or mistaken, I guess, because it’s just not possible.”
Heisler, who lives in Keller, played down the origins’ significance, which has gained him attention nationwide.
“This flag impacts people in a positive and emotional way,” Heisler said. “So if I tell people this flew over the Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001, that’s my understanding of the flag.”
In recent months, Heisler offered his flag’s services after the death of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, and McLelland and his wife, Cynthia.
He shows up in his Chevrolet SUV that is wrapped with the logo of the Honor Network. Chevrolet helps with the maintenance of his SUV, and General Motors regional spokesman Craig Eppling said the automaker wants to give him a new truck soon.
And while Heisler said he doesn’t receive a dime for his efforts, he also occasionally flies free on American Airlines on flag-related business. So does the flag.
“I’ve heard many times that it’s like a head of state,” he said.
In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Heisler helped organize a November 2001 caravan to New York with police officers from across the country. There, officers gave their states’ flags to the New York Police Department.
He said the Texas House heard about the caravan and sent him an American flag and a Texas flag as a gift.
Heisler said that while he was at Ground Zero with the officers, someone else’s American flag didn’t fit on a pole. So, he said, he lent them his flag.
Heisler said he didn’t realize the flag would become the symbol that it is today, so he didn’t take any photos. News accounts at the time only mention a Texas flag, and two Garland officers who made the trip said through police spokesman Joe Harn that they don’t remember whether Heisler had an American flag with him.
Nor does Heisler have any photographs of him and his flag from later, when he says he flew it while on Army missions in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. Heisler served in the Army and National Guard from 2003 until 2007, when he received a medical discharge.
Heisler said in an interview that Texas House Sergeant-at-Arms Rod Welsh sent him both the Texas and American flags.
But Welsh said that’s unlikely.
“I don’t recall gifting a flag,” Welsh said. “If somebody came in today and said, ‘Hey, could you get me the flag over the Capitol, I’d say, ‘No, you can’t. It’s $120.’
“I’m not in the business of giving away flags because we don’t have the budget for that,” Welsh said.
Heisler’s organization also has suggested in the past that the flag came from Gov. Rick Perry. Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said the governor’s office couldn’t confirm or deny that it sent a flag.