WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – Part of the Westerville Sports Complex is transforming into a moving tribute for Memorial Day weekend.
“Right now it’s just kind of a soccer field, athletic fields. When the flags go up, it turns into a very hallowed place and it just changes the feel,” Pat Knott said Friday morning.
The longtime volunteer was helping coordinate several dozen volunteers and members of the Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club as they installed 3,000 American flags in neat rows.
“I wouldn’t miss it. I’ve been here every year,” said volunteer John Bokros. “We’re honoring people who didn’t come home and for their service.”
Bokros served as a Westerville firefighter for nearly 4 decades before his retirement 8 years ago. He prefers to talk about his sons’ military careers.
“[I’m] so proud of both my sons,” he said. “They were both deployed and they came home safe, unlike a lot of people that don’t come home at all.”
The flags dotting the grass along Cleveland Avenue represent fallen service members, as well as everyday heroes. Community members can submit stories about their personal heroes to be attached to the banners.
“I’ve been out here every year for 13 years and I’ve cried every year in the field because some of the stories you hear are just amazing and gut-wrenching sometimes,” Knott said.
The event will also include a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen and other people of color who served in the military with a display called “Dignity & Duty: Honoring Minorities in the Military.”
Though the 2021 event is closer to normal than 2020, the Field of Heroes will be slightly modified to adhere to health and safety guidelines. Each of the flags is six feet apart to allow for social distancing and the entire display is visible from a vehicle if you’d prefer to drive through the parking lot.
In previous years, the weekend also included a Sunday 5K. This year, you have the option of participating in a virtual “Hero Hike” by walking or running one of several routes whenever suits you best.
Volunteers will begin taking down the flag display around 1 p.m. Monday, May 31.
You can find more information about the 2021 Field of Heroes by clicking here.