More than 1,000 large American flags will fly at Merced College early next month as veterans, active duty military and first responders are honored in opening and closing ceremonies.
The Field of Honor is a collaboration between the college and the Merced Sunrise Rotary Club. An increasing number of organizations and volunteers have become involved in the first-ever events. The flag-covered field will be located at the front entrance to the college adjacent to Yosemite Avenue.
The Field of Honor officially opens Sunday at 2p.m. in the Merced College Theater. At the opening ceremony billed as informative and inspirational, program coordinator Sam Traina said music will be provided by the Merced High School Marching Band and an honor guard will be present. There will be no charge for parking.
Active duty military members will be represented by retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jack Kelly, the Wounded Warriors are to be represented by Art Granados, and first responders by Steve Shackelton. The keynote address will be given by Shackelton, who is director of the Vernal Pool Reserve at UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute, according to the campus’ website.
Shackelton is also known as a former National Parks Service leader with experience as chief ranger in Yosemite National Park.
A brief closing ceremony will be held Nov.11 at 10a.m. on the college’s front lawn. An honor guard will be present, and Michelle Allison will host the ceremony, which is to include a “missing man flyover” by a four-member squad of homebuilt experimental airplanes. The planes will fly over the campus as taps is concluded.
Allison, who will sing “God Bless America,” said that closing ceremonies will be brief so participants can attend the annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown Merced. Active duty military members will be represented by Ernie Conner, and first responders by Merced Police Chief Norm Andrade.
Theresa Cesar, Rotary Club member, said the level of support from local businesses and community members has been wonderful. Many individuals and groups have stepped forward to serve as volunteers during the setup and throughout the week.
Through mid-October, more than 40 groups are providing additional sponsoring funding, with substantial donations from Joseph Gallo Farms and the Peter Gallo Memorial Foundation, according to Tim O’Neill.
An information tent will be open from 9a.m. to 4p.m. daily to help visitors locate their flags. Members of the public will be able to purchase flags throughout the event. Members of the public are encouraged to attach weather-proofed memorabilia, such as laminated photos, to the flags they have sponsored.