Rotary Club hosts inaugural Field of Honor tribute for Veterans Week
Last year in Murrieta, California, Dr. Jeanne McClellan witnessed a moment that’s forever etched on her heart. Jeanne visited a Field of Honor, an event displaying more than 2,200 United States flags as a tribute to individual military veterans and first responders as well as to personal heroes. Walking among the towering flags as they gently blew in the breeze, Jeanne noticed a woman and her young son, two rows over, standing in front of a particular flag. It was dedicated to a soldier who was missing in action. The woman clutched a framed photograph to her chest for a moment and then set it at the base of the flag pole. As quiet tears streamed down their faces, the little boy looked up at his mother and asked, “Is Daddy ever going to come home?”
That moment and many others at the Field of Honor made an impression on Jeanne as an American citizen and as a mother of a Navy veteran. “When you walk through the field and go between the rows, there’s something that happens. It’s very emotional,” Jeanne says. “It not only brings out that sense of patriotism, but also draws you closer to the idea that people are serving for you, for our country, and for our freedom.”
The Field of Honor concept was created in 2003 by the Colonial Flag Foundation as a way to honor the heroes of 9/11. Over the years, the event has become a way to honor all heroes. It has spread to locations across the nation and now features not only a field of U.S. flags but also an array of activities and events for the communities that host it. “I have attended four Fields of Honor hosted by the Murrieta Rotary Club, and I knew that someday I would have the opportunity to share that experience in another community,” Jeanne explains.
In 2013, Jeanne and her husband moved to Georgetown. After spending time getting to know and love the community and its people, Jeanne knew that the Field of Honor would fit into the city’s ongoing commitment to honoring veterans. Jeanne pitched the Field of Honor event to the Georgetown Rotary Club in August 2016. By October, a committee with an ambitious goal had formed—to make the Field of Honor an annual, week-long event for the whole community to enjoy. It will be the Rotary Club’s signature event.
Beginning on Sunday, November 5th, the San Gabriel Park Activity Field (the old Georgetown High School football field) next to the Recreation Center will be filled with approximately 1,500 U.S. flags, each tied with a yellow ribbon identifying someone’s hero. And who might that hero be?
“Your hero’s your hero. It can be someone in the military or a first responder. Your hero could also be a doctor, a teacher, or your parents. You can dedicate [the flag] to whomever,” explains David Kellerman, co-chair with Jeanne of the event.
Inside the large tent positioned on the field’s northwest corner, docents will be ready to guide people through the flags if they want to find the flags they dedicated to their heroes. Docents will also lead planned class field trips, and of course visitors may walk freely among the flags. And for anyone who missed the opportunity to sponsor or purchase a flag online, they’ll still be available at the field.
Besides the daily opportunity to walk through a massive tribute, the Field of Honor will feature a Chalk Walk to highlight local artists’ patriotic chalk drawings located alongside the field. Events during the week include a free concert at the field, a Patriots Ball at the Sheraton Ballroom, a celebration of the Marine Corps’ birthday, a flag retirement ceremony by Scout troops in Georgetown, and other activities culminating in First Responder Day on November 12th.
“The beauty of this event is that it’s for the entire community,” Jeanne explains. “It’s not just a one-day event focusing on one segment of the population. The Field of Honor, along with the various events throughout the week, is for the whole community to come and enjoy.”
The beauty’s also in what the event will do for the community. The proceeds from the flag sales and donations will go toward providing service animals to help local veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities and purchasing upgraded bulletproof vests for police officers. Money raised by the Patriots Ball event is earmarked for scholarships for R.O.C.K.’s Camp Courage, a horsemanship camp for children of active duty service personnel and veterans, as well as for local Rotary Club projects such as providing scholarships and character and leadership training for youth and building wheelchair ramps.
The Rotary Club of Georgetown and a legion of volunteers working to bring this event to life hope that the Field of Honor will draw thousands of visitors to walk among the flags, to enjoy the host of activities, and to come together as a community—but also to remember the most important reason for the Field of Honor. As David explains, “The number one thing is that this is a tribute to those who’ve served.”
For more information about the upcoming Field of Honor or to purchase tables for the Patriots Ball, please visit GeorgetownTXFieldofHonor.org.