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Volunteers raise flags to honor veterans

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

ALBANY -- Flags went up Saturday for a weeklong Patriots' Field of Flags display on the west side of the Albany Mall.

"We have volunteers out here who are veterans, members of the Young Marines and high school students putting up 1,000 flags," said Marvin Mixon, Southwest Georgia Exchange Club spokesman. "It started as a memorial to 9/11 and became a flag salute to all who have died in service to the country and who continue to serve."

Covering about an acre in red, white and blue for the eighth year, the flags will fly all week until Sept. 11. A ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. that Saturday will offer a reading of about 180 names of Georgians who have died since 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Taps and a 21-gun salute will round out the honors.

The field also honors the families of military personnel, emergency responders and all in service to America. The ceremony will include commanding general of Marine Corps Logistic Command Maj. Gen. James A. Kessler as a speaker on the final day.

But Saturday was a day for volunteers to drill holes in the dirt for metal rods to hold 8-foot flagpoles in 20 rows of 50 flags each.

"I'm just honored to be here to help out," said Kenikua Taylor, 16, a Young Marine from Westover High School. "I care about all the soldiers who defend the country."

Many of the volunteers putting up flags had ties to the military through family and friends. Greg Frich brought his five children to help plant flags.

"I passed by here last year and videotaped the flags," Frich said. "My father invited me to help out this year. I decided to get involved."

That meant organizing his children by camping out in their front yard Friday night and heading to the field at 8 a.m.

"I'm here because my dad was a Marine," said Emma Frich, 8. "I want to help out."

Savannah Frich, 14, said that she and her siblings grew up in a military family, and many of their family and friends were also military.

"This is some way we can give back to all the military who have served our country," Savannah said. "I'm happy to be here. I have a lot of family and friends in military families."

The other Frich children, Lilly, 10, Cole, 11, and Gregory 13, also helped plant flags on the field.

Another flag will be traveling to Albany for display on Oct. 13, Mixon said. It is called the "Patriot Flag."

"The Patriot Flag is a 30 by 50 foot flag that is touring the country before it will fly at the 9/11 site in New York on the 10th anniversary (of the terrorist attacks)," Mixon said. "American Legion Post 30 arranged for it to come to Albany, the only city in Georgia where it will be before going to New York."