It was unusual this morning that I woke with a song in my head. Not that there was a song so much as this was a very specific song – the National Anthem. I cleaned my house and prepared the rabbit’s breakfast all while singing fragments of The Song. I blame my mother. She impressed upon me as a very young child the importance and the beauty of the American flag and what it stood for. Sure she’d lead a sing-along of every patriotic song with the least amount of prompting, but when she saw the flag and some of those giant flags at car dealers are particularly striking, we’d always stop and check it out. Flag Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, we’d hit up every parade and hold our hands over our hearts reciting the Pledge or singing the Anthem.
Now here I was with bed head, hands awash in sticky wet greens being prepped for the Buzz, trying to figure out if it was un-Patriotic to sing the anthem in pajamas, especially without my hand over my heart, but I couldn’t stop singing it.
Fast forward four hours. I was driving home using back roads through North Andover’s old center….and BAM. A field of a million flags occasionally fluttering in the midday sun. I had to stop, mini camera in hand, and capture the beauty of this field. U-turns ensued, jay walking followed, and I walked amid the columns of flags.
This is the Field of Honor brought to the Common by the Exchange Club of Lawrence and the Andovers. The flags had been placed the day before, 347 flags to be exact (3 arrived with issues and couldn’t be posted). Bob Wescott an Exchange Club member and president of the New England Exchange Club’s Foundation a separate organization was manning a booth providing information and accepting flag sponsorships from the public and businesses. Chris Rines, treasurer of the Exchange Club of Lawrence and the Andovers, was helping out.
I had seen a Field of Honor before in Newburyport and learned that that group had been very helpful in setting up this event. I also learned that Fields of Honors must be 20 miles apart so despite my instinct to bring this to Haverhill, that opportunity won’t exist as long as North Andover continues its program. Of the 347 flags, 150 had been sponsored, and people could sponsor a flag through Thursday June 13. The donation to sponsor a flag is $40.
On Saturday June 15 beginning at 11 a.m.there will be the dedication of the field, with recitations, VIPs, music, and a reading of the memories on each of the flags. For additional information and to sponsor a flag go to the website for the Exchange Club of Lawrence.
The memorial serves to remind us of the veterans, current military, first responders and personal heroes, with donations that are then used for a variety of Exchange Club programs. I spent some time just thinking about the military in my family and among my friends. I thought of William Shuttleworth a 71 year old US Air Force veteran who I interviewed a few weeks ago as he started off his trip walking across the country to raise awareness on the needs of our servicemen and women, current and former. I’ve been following his website and GoFundMe account at VetsDontForgetVets.com. Women and men, passed me on my walk back to the car, always stopping to exclaim how beautiful the display was and how important it is to remember our heroes. I overheard Bob talking to the next potential sponsors. “We’ve got sponsors for over 150 flags.” My father, stepfather and uncle will now be remembered.
(c)Alison Colby-Campbell (photos and text)