Neither Dan Simons nor Joe Herrick served in the Armed Forces. Still, Memorial Day holds a special significance for them, as it does for many area residents who served, or have a family member who served in the military.
"A lot of people look at Memorial Day as the advent of summer. They forget about the soldiers," Herrick said. "We think it's time to start making it a big deal about them again."
Toward that end, the Catonsville resident has joined Simons in leading an effort to honor America's veterans with a special tribute Saturday on the Maiden Choice Lane campus of the Charlestown retirement community.
A Field of Honor featuring 500 3- by 5-foot flags will go on display May 25. Each flag in the 5-acre field near the Charlestown entrance honors a veteran.
"For three days, they will be flying day and night, flying for the troops, thanking a lot of guys," said Herrick.
The Maryland National Guard Honor Guard will present the colors during the ceremony and Julia Tucker, a 2010 Catonsville High School graduate, will sing the national anthem.
Groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars post at Charlestown, the Civil Air Patrol and the Lansdowne High School Junior ROTC program will also be represented.
Simons, the managing partner of Hubbard Funeral Home that is is sponsoring the event, said more than 375 flags have already been sold for $35 as of May 17.
He said flags will be available for purchase up to 10 a.m. Saturday. Proceeds from flag sales will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project and to the Charlestown Benevolent Care Fund.
The funeral home on Wilkens Avenue paid for expenses such as fees, the deposit on the flags, postage, printing and other items, Simons said.
"Hubbard has been here for 71 years and we just feel we need to give back," said Simons on the feeling he said is shared by his wife, Heather, a Hubbard funeral director.
Charlestown, Charlestown residents and members of Dewey Lowman American Legion Post 108 have contributed to the effort, he said, in addition to residents and groups in the Catonsville and Arbutus areas.
"It's nice to see certain groups who might not be able to give a lot, give what they can," Simons said.
Planning for this weekend's event began in February, said Simons, who had been part of two projects related to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while he worked and lived in New York.
More than 25 people attended the first meeting at Charlestown for the Field of Honor, many of whom were residents of the retirement community, he said.
"The first year of any event is always the roughest. But in the end, the volunteerism turned out to be quite good," Simons said. "The overwhelming response we've been getting has been extremely positive."
He said Catonsville resident John Corbitt, for example, volunteered the use of his company's loading dock to accept delivery of the 500 flags last week.
On May 22, 30 Charlestown residents will assemble 250 flags, Simons said. That evening, a group from the Fort McHenry Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol will assemble the remaining 250 flags.
Work to display the flags in the field will begin May 24 at around 9 a.m., Simons said.
Simons said both his brother and father are veterans, so Memorial Day holds a special meaning for him.
"Whether it was past service, present service, or for those who died, this is our way of remembering them," he said of Memorial Day. "They are the reason why we have these flags, why we have this day."
Among the flags on the 8-foot poles in the field at Charlestown will be one dedicated to Arbutus resident Jim Wilderson.
Herrick said he learned eight months ago about the Army Ranger, who was among the first wave of troops who landed on Omaha Beach during the D-Day Invasion.
The soldier is his uncle, he said.
To volunteer with the project, or to purchase a flag, call 410-242-3300.