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Field of Honor

Charlestown pays tribute to veterans with 5K race, 1,000 flags

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July 28th, 2015
Charlestown field of honor
Charlestown field of honor

Sara Nixon was the first female resident to cross the finish line at

“It was in support of two good causes, and it was right out my front door, so it felt like it was the natural thing to do,” says Sara. “I felt great! It’s amazing how much faster I can run when I am chasing someone ahead of me and keeping ahead of someone behind me. My next challenge is to come in first in my age group.”  

The 3.1-mile twilight race, under the auspices of Race IT, attracted nearly 100 runners ranging in age from 14 to 75. The course took runners twice around the loop road, which circles the campus, and past the Field of Honor featuring 1,000 U.S. flags. 

“One of the reasons I was attracted to Charlestown was the potential for beautiful daily runs,” says Sara, who at 68 runs three miles a day. “Running is very meditative for me—a good time to gather together my thoughts. I especially love running out in nature, listening to the birds, observing the way the sun shines through a grove of trees, and watching the change in seasons, especially the advent of spring—pretty wonderful stuff!” 

Honoring America’s heroes

Sponsors showed their support for the Field of Honor by purchasing flags for $40 each in dedication to those who have defended our nation with the option to keep their flag or donate it to the Field of Honor to be used again. Nearly $20,000 was raised from the event, with proceeds benefitting the Maryland-based Operation Second Chance, which supports veterans, and Charlestown’s resident care fund.

John Strumsky, 75, was the first male Charlestown resident to cross the finish line. John served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and volunteered on the Field of Honor planning committee.

“Planning for the Field of Honor begins several months prior, when volunteers from Charlestown attach the flags to the poles,” says John. “Others pound rebar into the ground on which to mount the flag poles. Others man the tent where flag sponsors fill out flag applications, and others assist sponsors out to the field to tag the flags they are sponsoring for their friends or family members.

“This is our third year hosting the event but the first year a 5K race and one-mile fun walk were added to the mix,” says John. “In 2013, 500 flags were assembled and raised, and that, in itself, was an awe-inspiring sight. In 2014, the number of flags was increased to 1,000, and a fireworks display was added. This was also the first year that food trucks serving crab cakes, hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, and other tasty treats were available for those who came to run, walk, or watch the fireworks.” 

Some gave all

The program for the opening ceremony began with a prelude by the 229th Army Band, followed by a bagpiper leading in the Maryland National Guard color guard. 

Charlestown’s chorus, the Harmonizers, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Various state and local dignitaries also paid homage to veterans. 

Harper Griswold, a 90-year-old Charlestown resident and U.S. Navy veteran who was at the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, at the beaches of Normandy, described the terrible sacrifices he saw that day. 

Army National Guard veteran Tony Ellis, a Charlestown resident and volunteer, was interviewed in a Baltimore Sun article and said 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,” Tony said in the article, 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.” 

Patti Santoni, Charlestown’s director of philanthropy, says the event is really more about honoring veterans and the visual of 1,000 full-sized American flags on the field in tribute, rather than the number of dollars raised. 

“Standing among those flags, I felt intense gratitude and sadness because I felt the 1,000 different stories that each flag represented,” says Santoni. “It’s humbling.”

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