By Katie Lovett
---- — NEWBURYPORT — For the fourth year in a row, hundreds of flags stand on Bartlet Mall as a tribute to those individuals who serve our country —in numerous ways.
Members of the Exchange Club of Greater Newburyport were joined by volunteers yesterday as they spent several hours carefully placing straight lines of flags around the Mall. In total, 350 flags will stay in the park through Wednesday, Sept. 11.
A public ceremony marking the Field of Honor is scheduled for noon on Sunday at the Bartlet Mall. Several state and city officials have been invited to speak, including state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, Mayor Donna Holaday, and local veterans’ services agent Kevin Hunt. Lt. Jeff Brunelle, of the Newburyport Salvation Army will serve as this year’s keynote speaker. A selection of patriotic songs will also be performed.
Visitors to the site can purchase a flag in honor of military personnel, firefighters, police officers, EMTs or anyone who serves their country — including average citizens who jump in to help others when the situation arises, says Exchange Club member Stuart Deane, such as those first responders who rushed to the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
“I think it raises another category — people who volunteer,” he said. “Those people that rise up in an emergency and help others ought to be recognized as well.”
All of the flags will remain on the Mall through the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, regardless of whether they are purchased, Deane said.
A flag can be purchased for $40 through Wednesday. Flags may be dedicated to individuals of the purchaser’s choice and may be picked up at the end of the display. In some cases, Deane said, a person will purchase a flag with no particular dedication in mind. Others buy a flag as a tribute to a loved one.
“Some (buy) for very personal reasons,” he said.
Proceeds from the Field of Honor are used to fund the Exchange Club’s numerous programs, including efforts to prevent child abuse, a scholarship program, the Kids as Peacemakers mural program, a harbor tour for clients in a local adult daycare, annual dinners for the Salvation Army, the Kids Day in the Park event during Yankee Homecoming, and the club’s efforts to supply coloring books and teddy bears to local police departments to give to children in the event of an emergency.
To purchase a flag online, visit www.healingfield.org/newburyport-ma. Flags may also be purchased from an Exchange Club member or at the booth on the Mall.