‘Field of Flags’Honors Memorial Day at Marine Park
“Field of Flags” will return this Memorial Day Weekend; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Marine Park and on Memorial Day Monday at John Paul Jones (Cannonball Park) in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, the traditional ending point of Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade.
This free exhibit sponsored by the “US Hockey Players Support Our Troops Campaign,” honors US military service members from New York State who died in military service during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. To date, 282 New Yorkers have died fighting these wars on terror.
Each American flag on the field represents one of New York’s fallen heroes. Each flag is matched with a photo and some basic biographical information about that service member. The oldest New Yorker to perish was 51-year-old Army Sgt. 1st Class Ramon A. Acevedo- Aponte (10/16/05 in Rustamiyah, Iraq) from Watertown. The youngest was 18- year-old Army private and father of one, David Evans Jr. (5/25/03 in Diwaniyah, Iraq) from Buffalo.
Every branch of the armed forces is represented. Jason Dunham, a Marine from upstate Scio, New York (4/22/04 from injuries suffered in Husaybah, Iraq) and Michael Murphy (6/28/05 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan), a Navy SEAL from Patchogue, Long Island were each posthumous Medal of Honor recipients.
More than 100 New York locations are listed as the hometowns of the fallen. Some were like Romanian-born Catalin D. Dima, a 36-year-old father of three and US Army sergeant (11/13/04 in Baghdad, Iraq) who was not yet a US citizen when he first enlisted. “He bought the whole package,” said his uncle, Peter Danciu. “He loved this country.” While deployed in Iraq in October 2004, Dima took the oath of allegiance administered by Eduardo Aguirre Jr., the outgoing head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In a fit of joy, he shouted “USA, USA,” as he left the ceremony. Six weeks later, the day he was promoted to sergeant, Dima died in a mortar attack near Baghdad. Aguirre says, “The moral of the story for me is he died as he would have liked to have died: a U.S. citizen and an officer in the U.S. Army.”
At least 95 of the fallen were parents that left more than 180 children. The first New Yorker to be killed was 21- year-old Rochester native, US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Johnson who died in the Persian Gulf on 11/18/01.
The most recent to make the ultimate sacrifice was 21-year-old Marine Corporal Christopher D. Bordoni from Ithaca who succumbed on 4/3/12 at a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Corporal Bordoni was wounded in action on 1/18/12 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The average age of the New Yorkers who have died in military service during this time is 26.5 years young.
A spokesperson says, “Memorial Day is about honoring and remembering those who are no longer with us because they made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.
We hope that “Field of Flags” helps Brooklynites to give pause and to reflect on the lives of the fallen, to support their families and to support their brothers-in-arms who are still in harm’s way.”
The US Hockey Players Support Our Troops Campaign is a charity sponsored by the Gili family of Brooklyn, New York.
The campaign raises funds that directly support Gold Star families and for projects that honor and remember fallen service members from New York State and beyond.
The campaign also raises funds to send care packages to troops who are currently deployed in the war zones. All inquiries can be made to Charlie Gili at firstname.lastname@example.org.