Next weekend, May 18-20, in observance of Armed Forces Day, the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor will host its Third Annual Field of Honor, recognizing the service of the men and women of the American military forces.
The Field of Honor, which is erected along the paths of the beautiful Castaways Park off Dover Drive, consists of 1,776 large American flags. Each flag may be dedicated in honor of a person who has served at any time, in any branch of the American military. Flags have even been dedicated to soldiers as far back as the American Revolutionary War. The name, rank and branch of service of the Honoree is attached to a ribbon and placed on the flagpole along with photos or other memorabilia that donors wish to add.
We have proudly supported the Field of Honor each year by purchasing a flag in memory of my husband’s late father Ed, Sr., who served in the Army in World War II. Like many, we attach a laminated sheet with pictures and a short remembrance of Ed’s service. I love to walk up and down the long rows of flags at Castaways Park, pausing to look at the many photos and memorabilia other families share in remembrance of their loved ones. Combine that with the elegant stateliness of 1,776 flags waving in the breeze with our beautiful Newport Back Bay and ocean as the backdrop, and it all simply takes one’s breath away.
I can never make it through the park with a dry eye.
Castaways Park will open at 9:00 a.m., Friday, May 18, and at 10 a.m. children from local schools will attend a special dedication ceremony where they will learn about the traditions and history of our great country. Cpl. Mike Dowling, USMC, will join the Explorer Scout Color Guard and school bands to celebrate the day.
At noon, Saturday, May 19, the Field of Honor dedication ceremony will recognize Armed Forces Day with music, celebrations, and greetings from dignitaries. Bob Friend, of the immortalized Tuskegee Airmen, will keynote the occasion, and the Orange County Fire Authority Pipes and Drums will perform.
On Sunday, May 20, visitors may walk the trails of flags and end with a 3 p.m. screening of the award winning film “All for Liberty” at Saint Andrew’s Church. This poignant story of a family’s sacrifice during the American Revolution is ideal for the entire family.
Throughout the weekend, “Taps” will be played each evening at sundown.
To dedicate a flag to someone who is now serving or has served in the American military, go to Exchange Club’s website at nhexchange.org, click on “Donate” and complete the form. Placards for Orange County military personnel who have been killed in action are available for those wishing to dedicate a flag in their honor.
The National Exchange Club is an all-volunteer organization to serve communities and foster leadership skills and friendships among members. It is the goal of the National Exchange Club to build a better America through promotion of Americanism and youth oriented causes.
Columnist Lynn Selich can be reached via LynnSelich.blogspot.com.