By Blair Drake, MOAA Contributing Editor
Memorial Day weekend, 1,000 American flags will fly in a field along Highway 377 in Granbury, Texas — each in honor or remembrance of a servicemember or first responder.
The event, called A Field of Flags: Remembrance and Honor, is led by MOAA’s Granbury Chapter, with support from numerous other military, veterans, and community groups. Each 3-by-5-foot flag is affixed to PVC pipe, mounted on rebar, and tagged with a name. Local businesses, groups, and individuals sponsor the flags, and all proceeds go to the chapter’s Veterans Support Fund and Junior ROTC fund. In 2018, the event raised nearly $30,000.
Gail Joyce, vice president for surviving spouses of the Granbury Chapter and a member of MOAA’s board of directors, started the program in 2012. “We have a very patriotic town,” she says. “I thought it not only would be a good fundraiser but also a good visual way to thank our military members and veterans.”
Joyce also knew how meaningful it is to have a loved one honored in that way. Her son, Sgt. James Casey Joyce, an Army Ranger, died Oct. 3, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Joyce says Field of Flags has become a community event that people not only look forward to but also generously support, with many local volunteers dedicating their time to make it happen. In addition to assembling and placing each flag, volunteers help with marketing, finding sponsors, organizing and leading Saturday’s program, and removing flags Monday at the conclusion of the event, among other responsibilities. Members of the chapter also staff the event from 9 a.m. to dusk each day — an important role because visitors are personally escorted to the flags they’ve purchased.
For these volunteers, there’s no shortage of emotional moments. “I had an older gentleman come up who had bought himself a flag,” Joyce recounts. “I walked him over, and he saluted that flag and tears were streaming down his cheeks. And he hugged me and said, ‘Thank you for doing this.’ He’s just one of hundreds of veterans who react this way.”
And even for visitors who might not have that personal connection, just walking among the flags while they’re blowing is an experience. “It’s almost like the flags are talking,” Joyce explains. “It blows people away. And then to read the tags, with all their personal sentiments, it’s very moving.”