A sea of red, white and blue flags atop of a field of green grass blew in the wind as Brookfielders gathered to show gratitude to the men and women who died for our country's freedom.
The Congregational Church of Brookfield held a dedication ceremony Saturday for the patriotic tribute called "Field of Flags." Each flag represents a life lost because of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Field of Flags was created in 2005 by members of the Somers Congregational Church as a way to pay respect to the brave servicemen and women who lost their lives as a result of war. When the tribute first began in 2005 there were 2,231 American flags placed. Today that number has grown to more than 5,582, "and is increasing every day," said Marianne Gaffey in her opening remarks.
Gaffey is the wife of Brookfield Police Chief Robin Montgomery, and one of the committee members for the Field of Flags. Sue Slater, Joni Park, military veteran and Historic District Commission Vice Chairman Bob Brown and retired Whisconier Middle School social studies teacher Barbara Anderson are also on the committee.
The flags are set 12 inches apart on each side to resemble the Arlington National Cemetery. The flags were set in place by over 50 church members, which included 20 teenage helpers from the church's Vacation Bible School. Guide wires were used to ensure proper placement.
Veterans from the community were in attendance for the dedication ceremony and the mood was somber as speakers recounted the lives lost not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Police Chief Montgomery recognized Emil Samuelson, "age 86, a survivor of Iwo Jima, WWII and a dedicated patriot to this country." He recounted how when the troops returned from WWI parades were held and returning veterans were welcomed as heroes. Five years later, the homecoming for Korean veterans was a far cry from that. The conflict itself became known as "the forgotten war," Montgomery stated.
The ceremony really hit home for Korean war veteran Frank Johnson who served in the Marine Corps. Johnson is the commander of the VFW in Brookfield. "People are forgetting about this war. It's like the Korean war — it's forgotten," Johnson said.
Johnson came to help set up the event at the church. "Anything for the vets, I'll do," he said.
Represented by one of the flags is Brookfield's own, Marine Lance Corporal John Schmidt, III, who died at the age of 21 from wounds received as a result of an explosion during combat against enemy forces in Iraq in 2005.
"Brookfield has honored his service by naming the soccer field in his name," Montgomery said. "As a nation we now attempt to make every effort possible to show our support to our troops and what they represent to a grateful country."
He continued, "We may disagree with our nation's policies, but we will always be united in our unwavering support of the men and women in our armed forces."
State Rep. David Scribner is a member of the church and gave his opening remarks, thanking the dedicated men and women who served and gave their lives. Scribner said he was baptized and married in the church and thought it was a very fitting place for the tribute to take place. "It was right here where Brookfield was established as a town," he said.
The display will be in place on the lawn of the church over the next three weeks.
The Congregational Church of Brookfield encourages all to "please continue to pray for our troops and for the families of our fallen heroes."