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"It's a treasure." Eagle's field of 600 flags honors veterans

Eagle's Field of Honor: 600 flags, millions of stories

The 12th annual Field of Honor at Merrill Park in Eagle is a tribute to all veterans and service members past and current.
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The 12th annual Field of Honor at Merrill Park in Eagle is a tribute to all veterans and service members past and current.

Six hundred American flags flutter in the breeze; it’s a sight that one can’t help but notice.

“Six hundred flags — but there’s millions of emotions and stories for each one,” says co-organizer Heather Paredes.

The 12th annual Eagle Field of Honor is the longest consecutive running field in the United States. It’s one of only two in Idaho (the other is in Idaho Falls), and in 25 cities throughout the United States. In Eagle, the flags fly at Reid W. Merrill Sr. Community Park for the 10 days between Armed Forces Day and the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

“When you’re in the field, you can look at the whole picture, and also see each individual flag,” says co-organizer Kathy Coburn. “You have this huge beautiful sight. And it’s made up of each individual person who serves or has served.”

Each flag is available to be sponsored for $30. A sponsor can name a veteran — anyone who has ever served in the military, living or not, active duty or not — and their name is written on a ribbon that flies with each flag. Proceeds from the sponsorships help veterans organizations. This year, Brave Hearts Idaho, an organization that helps veterans in financial crises, and the Idaho Veterans Assistance League are the beneficiaries.

The Field of Honor is part of a national program, and locally it’s labor of love, coordinated by sisters Coburn and Paredes for 11 of the field’s 12 years; and supported by their families and a raft of sponsors and volunteers (who can put up the flags in a militarily-precise 20 x 30 pattern in an hour and a half).

“The sight has never gotten old,” says Coburn. “It’s a treasure.”

It’s not unusual for people to stop by to see “their” flag. One woman came in search of her husband’s flag. They had been married for more than 70 years.

“You ask me why we do this,” says Paredes. “That’s why.”

When the Bates family dropped by, Paredes helped them find the flag for Paul Jennings Bates III— second row, far left; they are in alphabetical order. His brother, L.J. Bates and his wife, Laura Bates, and two daughters stood next to the flag, quiet except for the sound of the wind.

Bates III, who received a purple heart, killed himself in September 2014, so his flag is particularly poignant to the family. All three generations of Paul Jennings Bateses were veterans, says L.J., and his eldest daughter is named Jenning after her uncle.

“This is trying to prevent (veteran suicide),” says Laura Bates, her eyes looking past the flags and her thoughts toward the recipient organizations and the honoring of veterans. “We don’t want any other soldiers to go through what his brother went through. …

“This makes me happy,” she said, hugging her daughter and looking around. “Even though I’m going to cry.”

SEE THE FIELD

Eagle's Field of Honor is in Reid W. Merrill Sr. Community Park at 500 E Shore Dr. in Eagle through 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 29. Forms for sponsorships, which will be accepted at any time, can be found at the park or on the website at EagleFieldofHonor.org. Cost is $30. Flags can be picked up 5-7 p.m. May 29 at the park.

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