A young mother, looking harried, carried a toddler and guided another little one by the hand. She stood to the side of the registration tent and looked about in mild confusion mixed with eagerness and expectation. People milled about her with laughter and happiness.
When it was evident she was next, she approached the table and said in a quiet voice, “Um, I sponsored a flag for my husband. He’s deployed right now, but I wanted our kids to see it and be proud of their daddy. Can you tell me where to find my flag?”
A volunteer approached to help, and the registration lady gave him the coordinates to find the mother’s flag. They headed out to the field which was covered with over 2,000 flags, flapping in the late afternoon breeze. The mother set down the toddler and let her run among the flags. The children were laughing and hiding from each other and their mother among the flags, whose poles didn’t offer all that much coverage.
The volunteer steered the family into the center of the field and pointed out the flag that had her husband’s name on it. They looked at it. They beamed. Then the volunteer said he could take a photo on the mother’s phone, if she wanted. Yes, she wanted. With the winter afternoon lighting, the photo was especially beautiful and meaningful. They all smiled; the volunteer went on to help others.
Not much time had gone by when the mother and the two children reappeared at the registration table looking for the volunteer. “Yes?” he said, curious about her return. “I sent the photo you took to my husband,” she replied. Tears welled up in her eyes. “He’s been sharing it with his buddies. They are all very, very grateful that you have the Field of Honor,” she said. “I wanted to thank you again.”
Since 2009, the Murrieta Rotary Club’s Field of Honor volunteers have been hearing stories like this, seeing people moved by the display of full-sized American flags, working tirelessly to ferry children and adults through the massive display set up in Murrieta’s Town Square Park. The week-long event is held during the week of Veteran’s Day and creates the opportunity for the community to honor the heroes in their lives. It also teaches patriotism.
Since the beginning a cooperation between the Field of Honor and the Murrieta school district has worked successfully to have every 5th grader visit the Field. It isn’t just a romp among the flags; there are seven stations that the over 3,000 children are guided through. At each station, they are required to complete a lesson given to them in the form of a glossy magazine that they can then keep and take home. Questions in the lesson include, “Draw a picture of one of the official United States historical flags. Give the years it was used.” And, “Write the name and information on one local hero. Give the hero’s name, branch of service, rank, city they were from and the date they were killed in action.”
Since its humble beginnings, the Field has continued to grow by adding flags and adding events during the week. This year the Field activities will include not only the students’ visits, but also the second annual 5k “Run Forrest Run” event with the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Military Family Expo, the Patriotic Chalk Walk, the Veterans’ Lunch, Candlelight Concert by middle school students, the Marine Corps Birthday celebration, the Final Salute (a flag retirement ceremony by the Boy Scouts), and the Patriots Ball. New this year will be an art and music festival hosted by the Murrieta Arts Council. Stations include the Chalk Walk, Historical Flags section, Local Heroes Section, Medal of Honor recipients, Official Historical US Flags, War Memorials and the Obelisk, and the State Flags.
November 4 through 11 promises to be yet another moving, awe-inspiring week as the Field of Honor stands proudly teaching patriotism to children and adults alike. Please plan to attend the Opening Ceremonies on Saturday, November 4 beginning with the 5k run at 9:00.
Dates: November 4-11
Place: Murrieta Town Square Park, Murrieta, Calif.
Times: Every day from dawn to dusk
Opening Ceremonies: November 4, 9:00 am
Patriots Ball: November 11, 6:00 pm
Expected attendance: 5,000+
For more information, please visit the website, MurrietaFieldofHonor.com.
PHOTO: Jann Gentry