NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—After having to cancel its annual patriotic tribute in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor will host its 12th annual Field of Honor in recognition of the service and sacrifice of the men and women of all branches of the U.S. military forces.
The Field of Honor consists of 1,776 large American flags erected along the paths and cliffs at Castaways Park overlooking Newport Harbor. The number of flags reflects the date of the Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
“Seeing that many flags flying all along the cliffs overlooking our harbor is so inspiring,” said Jerry Strom, president of the Newport Beach 1st Battalion, 1 st Marines Foundation, which provides support and volunteers for the event. “It’s a visual expression of our gratitude to those who serve our country and communities, whether it’s present, past, living, or diseased.”
This year, organizers have added space force to the military branches including Army, U.S. Air Force and Marines, as well as first responders including medical professionals and fire, police and lifeguard personnel.
“Flags can be purchased and dedicated in honor of a person who has served at any time, in any branch of the American military, or who is considered a First Responder,” Richard Swinney, Field of Honor committee chairman told The Epoch Times.
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. In years past, there have been flags dedicated to soldiers dating as far back as the American Revolutionary War.
“We didn’t know until very recently if we were going to be able to hold the event this year,” Swinney said. “But the City (of Newport Beach) really came through for us, we just got our permit and have begun marking the flag positions.
“Neighbors and people walking through the park are already telling us how glad they are to see the Field of Honor going up again and we haven’t even gotten the flags out of storage.”
About 20 U.S. Marines from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Battalion based at Camp Pendleton arrived May 13 to assist with the installation, which used to take volunteers days to erect.
On June 1, the Marines will return to disassemble the display, at which time purchased flags can be picked up by their owners or donated back to the Exchange Club for next year’s event.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” Swinney said. “We’re grateful for their assistance, and we try to make it fun for them with the barbecue afterwards. Newport firefighters come to cook lunch and lots of people from the community come by to thank them for helping, and for their service.”
Visitors of the Field of Honor can also visit the Marines of 1/1 memorial statue designed by artist Benjamin Victor, which was dedicated to the city in 2008. The bronze sculpture overlooking the bay depicts a young marine in battle dress looking back over his shoulder as he appears to step into the black granite backdrop.
Swinney said that due to reopening restrictions and timing issues, they committee didn’t have the lead time to organize the traditional opening and closing dedication ceremonies normally held, but that there will be a Memorial Day event held from 12 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. featuring live entertainment.
“Every year, we have a special day dedicated to elementary schools who come and visit the Field of Honor, the students bring patriotic posters they create in art class, and we partner with the schools on essay writing contests as well, but those unfortunately did not take place this year.”
The Field of Honor is at Castaways Park, at 700 Dover Drive in Newport Beach, and is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It opens May 15 and runs through May 31.
Flags can be purchased online or or in person by visiting the Exchange Club booth in the Castaways parking lot from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.