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Exchange Club of Newport Harbor pays homage to armed forces, first responders with Field of Honor

Veteran Bill Moodie and his wife, Helen, visit the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor's 13th annual Field of Honor.
Veteran Bill Moodie and his wife, Helen, visit the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor’s 13th annual Field of Honor at Castaways Park in Newport Beach. The weeklong presentation of flags recognizes the service and sacrifice of military personnel and ends with a ceremony with guest speakers, honored guests, and the playing of “taps” on Memorial Day this Sunday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

With Memorial Day in the wings, flags are already aflutter in Castaways Park — 1,776 of them to be exact.

Well, 1,776 and 200 other flags that were planted in a nearby field. The flags were put up on Armed Forces Day, which this year fell on May 21. Yellow ribbons on the flags list those who are honored by each flag. Some are placed by family members while others are more general and referential to those who served and died in combat.

The Exchange Club of Newport Harbor traditionally sets up the Field of Honor and will be holding a Memorial Day event on Monday. Music will begin playing at 11:15 a.m., but the dedication ceremony will begin at noon. City dignitaries will be present in addition to a guest speaker and the presentation of flags.

A volunteer places one of 1,776 large American flags.
A volunteer places one of 1,776 large American flags during the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor’s 13th annual Field of Honor at Castaways Park in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Richard Swinney, this year’s chairman of the Field of Honor and a member of the Exchange Club, said unique to this year is that the flags honor not only those who died in combat but, for the first time, also first responders in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for the reason why there are 1,776 flags specifically? Swinney said, “It just marks our Independence Day — July 4, 1776.”

People are able to dedicate a flag to a servicemember or first responder for $50 at exchangeclubofnewportharbor.com/field-of-honor. All proceeds go to military families, other Americanism projects and local youth charities.

A volunteer places one of 1,776 large American flags during the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor's 13th annual Field of Honor.
A volunteer places one of 1,776 large American flags during the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor’s 13th annual Field of Honor at Castaways Park in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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