Two hundred American flags flying all in one place is quite a sight.
One thousand is breathtaking. Seeing them stirs the soul and tugs at the heartstrings. It awakes patriotism in even the most hardened pessimist.
To walk among those flags, as they fly full out in a strong breeze on a clear fall day, or hang softly in the embracing moonlight of a velvet night, is to move on hallowed ground.
Thousands of people experienced the grandeur of the Shelby County Historical Society’s Field of Flags in 2010. They will have the opportunity to do so again in September when the society flies the Field of Valor.
The Field of Valor will honor and memorialize current and former military forces, first responders and those who kept the home fires burning while their loved ones served. Each flag in the field, to be erected in Custenborder Park in Sidney, will sport a tag naming the person it honors and the person, business or organization who has honored him. The field will go up on Aug. 30 and will be open 24 hours a day from 8 a.m., Aug. 31, through 3 p.m., Sept. 6. For part of that week, the banners will fly behind the exhibit of a traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial wall. Admission will be free.
The goal is to fly 1,000 flags, a goal that was exceeded by 20 percent in 2010.
But sales are going rather slowly this year, according to historical society reports. We wonder why. Perhaps it’s because some people are still flying the flags they bought five years ago. Perhaps, since the U.S. has pulled out of several war zones since 2010, the urgency for patriotism has faded. We hope that the slowdown doesn’t illustrate a jadedness among Shelby Countians and others toward veterans and current military men and women, or a larger, more general apathy and ennui concerning the U.S.
We applaud the historical society for its ongoing programming that gives children experiential learning opportunities; adults, the chance to revisit and share their memories; and all of us, a way to put the concerns and tribulations of today into the context of the past. The Field of Valor, the exhibit of the Vietnam Memorial replica and the other activities planned during the upcoming Week of Valor offer us a way to connect our individual and collective lives to those who went before us, those who forged the future that has become our present.
We commend those corporations who have already bought a flag for each veteran on their staffs. What a thoughtful way to say, “Thank you for your service,” to employees who had put their very lives at risk — defending not only their families but also those companies who now employ them.
The Field of Valor can be a moving, almost holy, experience. We know. We were there the last time and look forward to feeling again the deep, deep reverence for country those flags instill. Without saying a word, the Field of Valor — 1,000 gleaming poles bearing all those star-spangled banners — expresses our pride and gratitude that we live in the United States of America.
For information about the Week of Valor or to purchase a flag, call 498-1653.