Jul. 2—Paying tribute to veterans comes in many forms, but this weekend in Lebanon, it comes on the waves of a sea of red, white and blue.
The front lawn at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center will be awash in American flags all weekend as part of local veterans organizations' annual Field of Flags celebration.
The flags are for sale and can also be donated to benefit the fundraiser in the future. There will be approximately 200 flags flying this weekend.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5015 Quartermaster Tom Gordon indicated that a partial transition to online sales had been successful for the annual fundraiser.
"We had great help from Robin Willis, who was our webmaster," Gordon said. "She fixed it where you could go online to buy the flags. So far, and this has only been for the month of June, we have had 70 responses. And she did it for free."
The James E. Ward Agricultural Center now has new strips for parking in front of the Farm Bureau Expo Center. The south side of the front lawn was paved to match the the pavement on the other side of the field in front of the Farm Bureau Expo Center.
Gordon indicated that this would actually be better, because it would increase accessibility to flags for people that are looking to take a photograph or find their flag, especially if they are disabled.
"Now, this gives them an opportunity where they can drive around to see and get to the flags" Gordon said.
Gordon mentioned that while they appreciate any donations, they are not required.
"Once we get the tent set up, we will have it where if you want to buy, buy ... if you want to donate, donate ... if you don't, that's fine too," Gordon said. "We are here, so let us know what you think about our flag set-up. We have people that want to come out and take photos. We have kids that come out. We have little flags we give them, and we'll say, 'Go for it guys.' "
The flags cost $35, whether purchased or donated, and are 3-by-5 feet. VFW Commander Bill Moss indicated that they exclusively purchase flags that were made in America.
For the veteran Moss, the event bears much significance, and he's happy to be able to honor members of his family who also served.
"I am going to buy a flag for my father-in-law and my uncle," Moss said. "My father-in-law, Reed Woody, served in Korea on artillery. My uncle, Phillip Moss, was in Europe during World War II. Both of them survived the war and came back home. The reason you do this is to bring back their memory, but people also need to see the American Flag fly. We want to build the rapport that this is the reason the flag flies, because of those people that either served and passed, were killed in action, or who might still be alive. We're honoring them."
Moss explained that Field of Flags goes far beyond just honoring local veterans with a spectacle. The event usually brings in anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000, which finds its way back to local veterans in many different forms.
"Every penny that we raise from this stays right here in Wilson County and benefits a veteran and his family," Moss said. "We are constantly running into vets that need a little help. We normally give them food. We have paid rent for people. We have even paid to have a car repaired.
It's not charity in Moss' and his colleague's eyes. They're merely paying back what is due.
"They signed on the line for a blank check, up to and including my life, and we are going to continue to honor that commitment," Moss said. "They already paid their fee, as far as we were concerned. They were brothers who needed help."
Moss mentioned that expenses come up that could set a veteran back, and that that is what they are trying to help with.
"We recently took food to a veteran and his family and paid their cell-phone bill," Moss said. "That is the only way that he could communicate with the VA hospital in Murfreesboro.
"There are no frills. We try to be frugal with our money. If they go through the Wilson County Veterans Services Office, then come to us, we try to help them out as much as we can."
Funds received go to four groups — the American Legion Post 15 here in Lebanon, the Veterans of Foreign Wars 5015, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1004 and the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America.
The official Field of Flags ceremony starts today at 10 a.m., but the flags will be out all weekend through Independence Day.