By Sarah Huether
Made up of 1,000 U.S. flags planted in a grid pattern in Veteran’s Park, the Field of Valor honors veterans, active duty soldiers, and local first responders while serving to educate local students about service to our country.
The field’s extensive preparation took a year and included using a pressure washer to drill 1,000 holes into the ground. “It takes a team,” says Jennifer “Bunny” Pratt, Field of Valor event chair, describing how it takes about three hours to put up all the flags with 50 volunteers. A $30 donation provides 10-foot flag poles, which hold flags labeled with either loved ones’ names or simply in honor of all veterans or first responders. “On a windy day when it’s kind of quiet…it’s pretty special,” adds Pratt.
The Field of Valor is sponsored and maintained by the Bryan Rotary Club. One of three local rotary clubs, the Bryan Rotary’s focus is education. An older chapter chartered in 1921, several members are veterans, some even from World War II. Fellow Rotarian Bruce Norton was intrigued by how the Rotary Club in Murietta, California, created a field of flags for veterans so, Pratt says, he presented the idea to the club and the organization created a three-year plan to develop what is now known as the Field of Valor.
More than 1,300 local fifth grade students visited the Field of Valor last year. During Veteran’s Week in November, Rotary volunteers provide guided tours through the Field with 10 stations offering homage to the various war memorials and veterans. Students are guided along the winding path, singing the National Anthem, and learning about various flag holidays and wars. The 9/11 Memorial and Moment of Silence Station finishes the tour at an actual piece of the World Trade Center at Veteran’s Park.
“These kids weren’t even born when 9/11 happened,” says Pratt, describing how students all share a moment of silence and then touch the memorial wall that stands in the park. Teaching the children about the sacrifices people have made keeps a sense of service alive, adds Pratt.
“War’s changed a lot,” says Pratt, stressing the importance of educating students on wars past and how it helps them understand present-day wars. For the future, Pratt says she hopes to reach 2,000 flags and to hear more about the stories behind each flag, integrating a hashtag #FOV for participants to share their stories and what the Field of Valor evokes for them.
“I cry every time I tell this story,” says Pratt as she remembers a Marine who put a tag on a flag for one of his friends killed in the line of duty. “That’s what it’s all about.”
To sponsor a flag in the Field of Valor or to volunteer, visit www.bryan-rotary.org. The Field of Valor is open to the public during park hours. The Bryan Rotary Club meets weekly at the Phillips Events Center from 12 noon to 1 p.m. and is open to anyone wanting to lend a helping hand to the community.