Families of fallen Guardsmen fighting for more than a flag

Diane Rawl's son 1st Lt. Ryan Rawl, 30, was killed in Afghanistan one month before he was scheduled to return home.

COLUMBIA (WACH) - Last June, three South Carolina National Guard soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan.

Since then, those soldiers' families have been working with state lawmakers on a measure that would lower the flag at the Statehouse to half-staff in memory of future fallen soldiers.

The mother of one of those soldiers is now fighting for more than just a flag, she's fighting for honor.

Diane Rawl's son 1st Lt. Ryan Rawl, 30, was killed in Afghanistan one month before he was scheduled to return home.

The months following his death have been difficult for Rawl, but she says through strong community support, the Rawl family is not mourning a great man that died; they're celebrating the great man that lived.

"We live with it everyday. It continues to go on. I mean, it just broke our heart...shook our family up like a snow globe," said Rawl.

Rawl says it took more than 10 days for her son's body to return home, during that time she hoped the flag at the Statehouse would have flown at half-staff in honor of the soldiers killed in action.

Rawl and the families of 36-year-old Spc. John David Meador II of Columbia and 30-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bradford Thomas of Easley are working with lawmakers to push a bill that would fly the flag at half-staff for 10 days once the governor is notified of a death, and again the day of a soldier's funeral.

"The law now states that you just lower the flag during the funeral, and then it was put back up immediately," said Rawl. "To us, that was somewhat disrespectful. It was like the funerals over, let's get the flag back up."

Lexington Senator Katrina Shealy is one of many lawmakers backing the bill. She says it's important for families to see the flag lowered to half-staff and adds the gesture shows honor and respect for the soldier that died.

"They've given their lives. That's the ultimate sacrifice," said Shealy. "They can't give us any more. What's 10 days flying the flag at half-staff for them?"

The bill is being debated in the Senate. Shealy says she doesn't see why the measure would not become law.

"Give them the honor they deserve. Think about where we'd be if we didn't have these people fighting for our country. So, that's what we're doing, we're giving them the honor they deserve," said Shealy.

The Rawls know first hand how much a flag can help ease a families pain.

"Lowering the flag would show that this whole state realizes what they've lost," said Rawl. "We haven't just lost a son, this state lost three tremendous men."

Three men that may be gone, but will never be forgotten.