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With annual Memorial Day parade canceled, this is how American Legion Post 7 is honoring fallen soldiers
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An American flag flies in the wind after being raised during Grant-Reeves Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7720 flag dedication ceremony in Alto, Saturday, June 30, 2018, at Anderson Village along Tommy Irvin Parkway. - photo by David Barnes

Rows of American flags will cover a large patch of greenspace at the end of the pedestrian bridge along Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville to honor those who sacrificed their lives for their country. 

Outdoor events like the annual Memorial Day parade along Green Street are canceled in Gainesville and Hall County due to the pandemic. 

Johnny Varner, veteran service officer of the American Legion Post 7, which usually helps put on the parade, said he felt inspired to create a “Field of Honor” to memorialize the holiday. 

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 25, American Legion members and local combat veterans from the Atlanta chapter of the PTSD Foundation of America will plant 150 12-by-18-inch flags into the ground. 

“We look forward to the fact that many motorists and pedestrians in Gainesville will have the opportunity to appreciate this effort as it’s in a well traveled and highly visible area,” Christina Santee, the city’s public relation manager, said.

At 11 a.m. someone  will play “Taps,” then the post’s chaplain will say a prayer. The flags will stay up for the day.

Dan Solla, Atlanta chapter manager of the PTSD Foundation of America, said the group of people who erect the flags will remain small, and participants will keep proper distance from one another.

“We’re going to make sure they are organized and look presentable,” Solla said. “The goal is to have a patriotic display; the act itself won't be a ceremony.” 

Varner said he doesn’t see the Field of Honor as a replacement for the parade but a tradition he hopes the city will carry out each Memorial Day. 

When people pass by the flags Monday, he hopes people will reflect on the true message of the holiday.

“It should be more about memorization to honor people that have served and passed and made the ultimate sacrifice to serve in the military,” he said. “I think that’s what the parade lacks. When you’ve got politicians going across the street with flags, there’s no message. This (Field of Honor) is a communication tool for everyone to tell their own version about why the flags are there.” 

For more information, email Varner at johnnywvarnerjr@gmail.com


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