Flags honor fallen servicemen fill field at Rockingham Church

Union Leader Correspondent
October 17. 2012 11:20PM
Exeter Navy SEAL Daniel Healy, who was killed in action in 2005, is among the more than 6,300 flags planted in a field at the Rockingham Church in Plaistow. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)
PLAISTOW - Volunteers turned out last year to plant nearly 6,300 American flags in memory of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in a field outside the Rockingham Church.

Last weekend, the flags were planted again to remember the fallen, but sadly, volunteers had to purchase more flags as the death toll continues to climb.

Rows of more than 6,600 flags now fill the field at the church at 90 Newton Road as part of the public memorial.

The 'Field of Flags' will remain on display for public viewing until Dec. 1.

'We just appreciate the sacrifices of our military and what they do for us. For me, I'm more thankful every day that my son returned,' said Jackie Masse of Plaistow, a church member who has helped organize the memorial over the past two years.

Masse's son, Sean, 23, served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan while in the Marines.

Nearly 300 volunteers attended a ceremony Saturday, where the fallen veterans were honored and then the flags planted over the course of three hours.

Each flag has a weather-proof card attached with the name of the servicemen or women, age at the time of death, branch of military, and home state.

It also states whether they died in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. An artificial red rose was attached to each flag representing a female veteran.

Masse encouraged the public to visit the display to pay their respects.

This is the second year that the church has planted the flags.

Masse said another 1,000 flags this year with donations. Another 334 additional flags were planted this year to remember those killed since last year's display, while other flags had to be replaced.

'You can see the subtle messages of the 6,600 American flags. If you're drawn to it and step into it and notice the tags, you're able to see the names and hometowns and locations. It brings a sense of gravity of what they're trying to do and something like this helps to keep it in the forefront of our minds,' said Kevin Major, a Sandown resident and retired lieutenant colonel from the New Hampshire Army National Guard who served as master of ceremonies at Saturday's event.

The display hit home for Major, not only because of his own military experience, but because his 22-year-old son, Ethan, is a helicopter flight medic in the New Hampshire Army National Guard and is preparing for his first deployment.

'It changes everything,' Major said.

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Jason Schreiber may be reached at jschreiber@newstote.com.

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