From Daily News http://www.newburyportnews.com/opinion/x1011134764/Field-of-Honor-spurs-the-emotions-of-a-community
September 4, 2012
remember those who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, on
the Pentagon and in the heroic efforts by passengers in Shanksville,
Pa., plus those who have served as firefighters, police, EMTs or
military personnel, the Exchange Club of Greater Newburyport is once
again installing a field of American flags on the Bartlet Mall, this
year from Friday to next Tuesday, with official ceremonies on Sunday,
Sept. 9, at noon.
“It’s so beautiful — an amazing event that
allows the Newburyport community to reflect on life and how precious it
is,” said Susan Hines, mother of 1st Lt. Derek Hines, who lost his life
in combat in Afghanistan. “Family and friends have an opportunity to
honor those they love.”
Said Exchange Club president Pat
Zalewski, “The Field of Honor has come to mean a place of reflection and
connection for people. There are so many stories to share and lives to
Past dedications of flags have covered a wide
spectrum of victims and service personnel, from those who came to the
rescue and recovery on 9/11 to veterans of the Civil War, WWI and WWII,
Korea, Vietnam and the current active duty military in Iraq and
“I was actually unaware of the Field of Honor,”
said Angela Veltsos, sister of Newburyport High School graduate and Fox
Sports Net videographer Thomas Pecorelli, who died on American Airline
Flight 11, the first plane to hit the Twin Towers, on his way home to
California from a wedding.
“I was coming from the cemetery when
I saw the flags. It was so touching. I had to walk over and look at
them. As I was reading the tags, I saw my brother’s name. I almost
collapsed, I was so overcome. Then the music started to play … It was
very emotional for me, not just for those who died, but for those who
have served. They have not been forgotten. That makes me feel good.”
flag had been dedicated by local banker and high school sports
broadcaster Richie Eaton, who had at one time been assisted by Pecorelli
in filming games.
Last year’s dedication by the Newburyport
Fire Department read: “In memory of the 421 New York City first
responders who perished on 9/11/01 — 343 FDNY, 23 NYPD, 37 Port
Authority, 15 EMTs, and 3 Court Officers, in addition to the 2,000+
first responders injured that day and (the unknown number of those who)
have died from injuries and exposure since.”
This writer has
honored three great-great-grandfathers who served in the Civil War with
the Vermont Volunteers — one of whom died, one of whom was wounded but
survived, and one of whom escaped unscathed — and his deceased father, a
veteran of WWII. All put themselves on the line. The flags have since
been handed on as gifts to his own sons.
“The Field of Honor was
a catharsis to honor a woman I adored,” said one-time Vietnam War
protester Linda Lu Burciaga of her mother, who joined the Marines during
WWII on the very first day women were allowed to join. “Seeing the flag
brought tears to my eyes.”
The Exchange Club itself is honoring
one of its own — the 88-year-old Merle Forney, a WWII veteran of the
U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division who has since dedicated his life to the
pursuit of peace — “for his untiring spirit of service,” especially as
founder of Kids As Peacemakers.
The Exchange Club’s
participation in the program was sparked by Past President Kathleen
Bailey, who will arrive at this year’s Field of Honor from her business
re-location in Georgia to participate in the ceremonies.
Field of Honor gives us an opportunity to remember respectfully,” she
said. “Not only are we honoring people who have served, giving the
ultimate sacrifices of time and, many, with their lives; with each
American flag we pay tribute to the great nation in which we live.”
find the entire event incredibly meaningful,” said Holly Shay, mother
of Sgt. Jordan Shay, who died while serving in Iraq. “As I walk through
the flags, I find it a time of reflection. I think of the victims of the
attacks, but I also think of the ripple effect on the nation, including
that on my own son, who felt the need to go into the service and, of
course, the outcome. I can’t imagine anyone not being impressed by the
Field of Honor. It’s a wonderful event for the community.”
opening ceremonies will feature “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sung by Ann
Ormand of the Chamber of Commerce and accompanied by a U.S. Coast Guard
Color Guard unit, words from local officials, a music presentation by
the Merrimack Valley Townsmen and a reading of names of dedicated flags,
called the “Verbal Wall,” read to the accompaniment of bagpiper Jim
Gabriel, a lieutenant in the Everett Police Department.
may be purchased ahead of time from club members or by going to the
website www.healingfield.org/newburyport-ma-2012. Flags will be sold
right through the event as long as supplies last. Members will install
the flags on Friday, and purchasers may pick up their flags on Tuesday.
addition to flag sales, event sponsors include The Newburyport Bank,
The Institution for Savings, Stone Ridge Properties, Beacon Relocation,
and Ned and Patty McGrath.
In-kind sponsors include Seaport
Signworks, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, PierGeorge, Domino’s
Pizza, Dugan Supply, Homisco, WNBP, Dunkin Donuts, Abraham’s Bagels, The
Black Duck, Coca-Cola, Port Media, Shaw’s, Peter Zoltai Photography,
Merrimack Valley Townsmen, Salisbury Discount House, and Jim Gabriel.
Even anonymous donations have come in.
“Do you accept donations?” asked a man at the Market Square pre-event flag sale tent, offering a $20 bill.
“Is there a story in there?” he was asked.
“No, just a thank-you for what you are doing.”
from the Field of Honor will go to the prevention of child abuse in the
Merrimack Valley, to local veterans’ organizations and to the charity
work of the Exchange Club of Greater Newburyport.
allows us to honor those who have served and at the same time to carry
on our work in the community,” said Zalewski. “The mission of the
Exchange Club is to make our communities better places in which to
Stuart Deane lives in Newburyport.