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Zumbrota Field of Honor lights the way for many

Jamie Gomez lights a luminary at Zumbrota’s Field of Honor. He brought other family members with him, who had never been there before. Watching him is 8-year-old nephew Louis Gomez. (Photo by Sandy Hadler, contributor)

By Sandy Hadler, contributor

ZUMBROTA — Eight-year-old Louis Gomez watched his uncle Jamie Gomez of Zumbrota light a luminary Sunday night at Zumbrota’s Field of Honor, as other family members looked on. This is the 9th year that the Field of Honor has been displayed at Covered Bridge Park.

Lifetime VFW member and event planner Howie Ayen introduced the idea years ago, and volunteers from the community and veterans put up the flags, light the luminaries and, on Monday, take the flags down after the Memorial Day program.

Saturday evening the periphery of the Field of Honor is lit with electric flood lights. On Sunday evening, the public is invited to light luminaries at the base of each flag. This year, as the sky darkened, it took only 15 minutes for volunteers to light up 500 luminaries. Soon after, people stopped their cars and walked down to the Field of Honor to get a closer look at the patterned flags by candlelight.

“People really like the luminaries. Lots of people sign up to light them. They burn all night long. Tonight the wind has dropped and the flags are still, and it is so solemn, ” Ayen said.

From the moment the flags are put up on Saturday morning, volunteers guard them. Ayen said it isn’t so much a security issue as respect for the flags. Lois and Larry Pederson of Zumbrota took the 8 p.m. to midnight shift on Saturday. Larry, a Vietnam vet who is actively involved in veterans’ issues, saod he considered it an honor to do so, despite a chilly evening.

Zumbrota’s Field of Honor inspired the creation of others in surrounding communities, including those at Wanamingo and Mazeppa. Next year, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Field of Honor, plans are under way to introduce several new events that will entail the public’s involvement.