WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — A Memorial Day fixture in Westerville returns this year with major changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the theme of the Field of Heroes event honors front line workers.
“I think it’s probably more fitting this year than ever, of the people who you never think about, who really make your life work and who are out there doing things that protect us all,” said Larry Jenkins, founder the event.
Friday, volunteers were setting up the displays and pounding rebar into the earth to support the nearly 3,000 American Flags.
Several adjustments had to be made in order to keep the event going in a time of social distancing and an inability to gather in large groups.
“A month ago, we were seriously considering whether we were going to be able to do it,” said Jenkins.
Unlike past year’s, there will be no ceremonies, no concerts and no on-site 5k run. But the opportunity to come to the Westerville Sports Complex and honor heroes will still be available.
Forced to trim back, the event offers a stripped down, intimate experience between individuals, the flags and their thoughts.
“This year, it is all about the flags and the drive through experience and allowing people to come and see the flags and just be in that moment,” said Pat Knott, one of the committee members for the event.
The event will still honor the men and women of our armed forces who have given their lives to protect our freedoms. But this year’s event will also focus on recognizing those who aren’t normally seen as heroes, including front line workers.
“This year, we felt it was appropriate to honor the front line workers that are helping us through this pandemic right now,” said Knott. “Many of them have also given the ultimate sacrifice to provide care for us in this time.”
Normally, people would be able to dedicate one of the flags with a blue tag. But that is not being done this year due to safety reasons. The organizers do not want to encourage large gatherings on the Field of Heroes.
Still, they say if driving by isn’t enough for you and you want to get out of your car and walk through the field, no one will stop you.
“The park is technically not closed, so people are free to get out,” said Knott. “We just encourage if you do, don’t gather in groups, try to be social distancing and if possible, wear some face coverings.”
While those face coverings are not mandatory, they are encouraged. Organizers also ask that you follow state orders and social distancing guidelines.
“We just hope that everybody has a chance to have a positive moment and respect that,” said Jenkins.