Field of Flags returns to Albany

One thousand American flags flutter in the wind in a lot near the Albany Mall in September 2010. The annual  Field of Flags display is a memorial to 9/11 and a salute to past and present service men and women.

One thousand American flags flutter in the wind in a lot near the Albany Mall in September 2010. The annual Field of Flags display is a memorial to 9/11 and a salute to past and present service men and women.

ALBANY -- With the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington comes a tradition in the Albany area: the annual Field of Flags.

The Walter H. Burt American Legion Post 30, headquartered on Gillionville Road, is sponsoring the ninth annual Field of Flags event that will run from Saturday through Sept. 11.

Since he is a Vietnam War veteran, the annual celebration is something Marvin Mixon, the chair for the event, tends to get emotional about.

"We've got to remember the sacrifices that have been made for this country," said Mixon. "It's something we can't forget. With us veterans knowing what (the servicemen) are going through, we will always remember."

On Saturday, there will be 1,000 flags placed on the field west of the Albany Mall, across the street from Outback Steakhouse on North Westover Boulevard, beginning at 8 a.m. The flags will be 3 feet by 5 feet and stand on poles that are 8 feet high.

Volunteers who show up to help put the flags up Saturday will be welcomed, and will also be welcomed when it comes time to take the flags down starting at 5 p.m. on Sept. 11.

"It takes us six hours to set the field up, so we need a lot of help," Mixon said. "For anybody that's interested, it gives you a feeling of patriotism to see (the setup) finished."

The public is also invited to visit the field while the flags are up to walk through them or take pictures. A concert, which will be free and open to the public, will be conducted by the local band "Relapse" at 7 p.m. on Sept. 9.

The band will present beach, Motown and classic rock 'n' roll music. The concert will last roughly two hours. Attendees may bring lawn chairs along with non-alcoholic refreshments.

At 7 p.m. on Sept. 10, a memorial program will be held. The main speaker will be retired U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Dan Hammack, the founder of Purple Heart Outdoor Tours.

The program will include remembrance of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The names of Georgians killed will be printed in the event program, and those of that group who lived in Southwest Georgia will have their names read aloud.

The event will conclude with rifle and cannon salutes and a playing of taps.

In years past, the Southwest Georgia Exchange Club has coordinated the program, but the American Legion is carrying it forward. Donation of 1,000 rebar rods was made by General Steel following a theft of the poles used for the flags last year.

"There have been other donations made to assist the program," Mixon said. "Without the help of the community, we would not be able to do this."

Those wishing to sponsor a flag in honor or memory of someone can do so for $25. The flag will have a tag placed on it, and it can be claimed following the memorial program.

All of the events will take place on the field. With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 being this year, officials expect a favorable response.

"It seems to get bigger each year," Mixon said. "Even people that can't show up will acknowledge it. With this being the 10th anniversary, we expect a good turnout.

"People will come out as individuals or families and take pictures; people come out at sunrise and sunset. Foreigners come up and ask what we are doing, and we have veterans that come out."

The appearances by the veterans can be especially touching.

"Sometimes they will come out into the field and you'll see them wipe tears from their eyes," Mixon said. "When you've had friends you see that have lost their lives, that's what the flag stands for.

"We look at it as a weeklong memorial."

Ray Humphrey, commander of American Legion Post 30, is of a similar mind.

"The 10th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon reminds us of the solidarity we all felt that day," Humphrey said. "The erection of the field of 1,000 flags in Albany demonstrates our remembrance of those who lost their lives that day and our appreciation of all the men and women and their families who have sacrificed for our country since that day.

"Like Pearl Harbor, the date 9/11 reminds us of the unity and pride we all feel in our country. Osama bin Laden tried to destroy us; he only made us stronger."

For more information or to sponsor a flag, contact Mixon at (229) 894-9578.