'Field of Honor' pays tribute to military members, first responders in Merced County

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a sign of appreciation for military members and first responders in Merced County.

A sea of red, white and blue is proudly displayed on the lawn of Merced College.



With Veterans Day approaching, it also provides a teachable moment for local middle school students.

"I want our kids to know that these people are special -- they gave their lives for our country," said Ruth Alejo, the Co-chair for the Field of Honor.

The "Field of Honor" was created to memorialize Merced County military veterans and first responders who risked, or even gave, their lives to preserve our safety and freedom.

The field is filled with stories, like that of Robert Gutierrez, who was part of the 101st Airborne Division in the U.S. Army and fought in the Korean War.

His daughter, Laura Lynn Gutierrez, purchased one of the 1,500 flags in his memory.

"For people to see and for us to acknowledge what he did for our country and what he actually put his life through," Gutierrez said.

The memorial also serves as a learning experience for local 8th graders across Merced.

Tuesday, students from Cruickshank and Rivera Middle Schools visited the site.

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They were taught about each military branch's flag, learned about local fallen heroes, were taught about the origin of Old Glory, and learned about the special flag on display that's dedicated to victims of the September 11th attacks.

After the lessons, students walked through the field, taking down names and information of those who served for a report they'll do later.

"Actually coming out here to see and read the flags on people on, how like, what they did in the military in the navy, I feel like it's a good time to learn about something like this," said 8th grader Bryan Best.

He was among the more than 400 students who visited the site Tuesday.

"I find it very respectful because people have gone out of their way just to make it so that we could be safe," said 8th grader Haylie Pearl.



For those teaching the younger generation, who also know some of the fallen service members themselves, they hope each student walks away with a better understanding of the sacrifice each person made.

"That's one of the reasons why we do this, to actually honor their memory, and also make sure that they live with us forever and to show gratitude for all the service he did as well as everyone else," said Retired U.S. Marine Corp Sergeant Major Jesus Z Deniz.

More than 1,000 students are expected to visit the site throughout the week.

This display is open to the public and free to check out.

It will be up until the closing ceremony, which is Saturday at 2 p.m.
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