Rows of American flags filled the field just inside the Maiden Choice Lane entrance to the Charlestown retirement community for the Memorial Day weekend last year.
Rows of American flags filled the field just inside the Maiden Choice Lane entrance to the Charlestown retirement community for the Memorial Day weekend last year. (File photo)

More than 1,000 flags honoring the country's veterans will again fill a field on the Maiden Choice Lane campus of this weekend as part of the annual Charlestown Field of Honor.

This is the third year Charlestown and the Hubbard Funeral Home have joined together to host the Field of Honor event.

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The event, now in its third year at the senior living community in honor of Memorial Day, will feature the same field full of flags as well as a fireworks display that celebration attendees are accustomed to seeing.

But those who plan to visit will see some new additions as well.

Community members will be invited this year to participate in a 5K and 1-mile walk at 7 p.m. on May 22 and to stop by and see the flags lit up at night any time between Friday and Monday until 10 p.m..

Each year, Hubbard managing partner Daniel Simons said, the event grows larger.

But without the approximately 250 volunteers who help set up the display and staff the information tables, he said, none of it would be possible.

Making the event even more special for Simons are the volunteers he works with.

"It's so rich with veterans," Simons said. "More than half of our volunteers are veterans [or spouses of veterans]."

To see the interest from the local veteran community in making sure the event happens every year, he said, is gratifying.

While some volunteers pound the flag holders into the ground, others who are less mobile work the information table, telling visitors about the display and the symbolism of the flags, each of which is sponsored by an individual or group in the name of a veteran.

When the display is taken down on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, sponsors may either keep their flag or donate it back to the Field of Honor.

"I'm always amazed at what these veterans and what these seniors can do," Simons said. "If it weren't for these veteran volunteers, this program would not succeed every year."

One of those volunteers is John Strumsky, a Marine Corps veteran who has been involved with the program for each of the three years it has been in operation.

He estimates that he and other volunteers assembled more than 1,030 flags this year, up from the 500 the group used in their first year.

On Thursday, May 21, he will spend the day planting them in the field at Charlestown ahead of the Friday kickoff, which will feature the races, fireworks and speeches by local and state officials and representatives.

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"I've always felt very close to veterans," Strumsky said. "I just feel very fortunate that I live in America, where we enjoy the freedoms that we do."

Strumsky is originally from the Little Italy section of Baltimore City, but spent 40 years living in Millersville before moving to Charlestown. Since coming to Catonsville, he said, he has been impressed with the community's enthusiasm for honoring those who have fallen in defense of their country.

"There's an awful lot of people in Catonsville who see all the flags and come in and they just get really excited," he said "It's just exciting to see that many [3-by-5-foot] flags flying in the breeze."

For Tony Ellis, an Army National Guard veteran who served during the 1960s, seeing the World War II veterans who live at Charlestown experience the event every year makes all his volunteer work worth it.

"It's a real good feeling to participate in that," said the Charlestown resident, adding that his favorite part of the weekend is getting to watch the older veterans search through the flags for their own. "It's quite moving."

Flag sponsorship costs $40 and all net proceeds are donated to the Charlestown Benevolent Care Fund, which helps support Charlestown residents, and Operation Second Chance, a non-profit organization that helps military veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center transition back to duty or into civilian life.

For information on the Field of Honor, go to facebook.com/pages/Charlestown-Field-of-Honor/410134192409446.

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