Watching nearly 200 American flags blow in the wind on the front lawn of the Farmingdale Public Library brought a smile to John Wendel’s face.
As a retired sergeant who served in the Vietnam War for the United States Army, Wendel, 65, of Farmingdale, said he was thankful he made it back home alive.
“When I was discharged and coming back home on the plane, there was an eruption of joy,” he said. “When you are out on the front line, you never know for sure if you are coming home.”
The Field of Honor at the library was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Farmingdale for the second year. Flags were erected Saturday in the name of local veterans and the project was unveiled Sunday with a ceremony at the library. The flags will be on display until they are retired on Dec. 7.
Wendel’s wife, Joy, decided a great way to show her gratitude for her husband and all those who served was to purchase two American flags -- one for her husband and one for his brother, James Wendel, 63, of Copiague, who also served in the Vietnam War.
“I purchased the American flags because I wanted to give them the honor they deserved,” Joy Wendel, 56, said. “I wanted to show them the respect they deserve. I am very proud of them.”
Patrick Burns, president of the Kiwanis Club of Farmingdale, said the group was selling American flags for $25 and military flags for $200. The project raised about $1,000 this year, which will benefit the two student groups that helped put up the display -- the Farmingdale High School Key Club and the Farmingdale Boy Scouts Troop 261 -- and local veteran organizations.
Veterans who have had a flag purchased in their name will be able to keep the flag when it is retired.
Burns, who is U.S. Navy veteran, said he first saw the Field of Honor at the Farmingdale Library about three years ago when the Kiwanis Club of Massapequa was organizing it. He decided his club should take it over.
“I was wowed by it,” he said of seeing the Field of Honor for the first time. “I just happened to see it by mistake. I didn’t know the Field of Honor existed. I saw it in all its glory and I loved it.”
The Field of Honor ceremony held in the lower level of the library included Howitt Middle School sixth grader Taylor Stanton singing the "Star Spangled Banner," Saltzman East Memorial School Band performing patriotic songs “Grand Old Flag” and “Heroes and Glory”’ and the ceremony ended with New York District Kiwanis Club governor Joseph Aiello leading the moment of silence for the veterans who gave their life for their country.
John Wendel said standing on the lawn made him feel a sense of gratitude. “I am very grateful to see these flags. It means so much.”
If interested in sponsoring a flag, contact Burns at Farmingdalekiwan@aol.com. If your community is sponsoring a Field of Honor, let us know in the comments.