A field of red, white and blue

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Photo by Steve Solomonson

More than 250 flags lined the fields in Marine Park on Saturday — each one honoring an American soldier who had fallen in a distant country — giving the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the Democratic way of life.

“The first flag I picked up was for a boy of 22 years of age,” said Kathy Ford, a Marine Park resident who came upon the field during her daily walk. “It’s just so sad. Some of them were very young people. They gave everything for their country.”

The flags represent soldiers from more than 100 towns throughout New York State and from all branches of the armed services. Each flag bared a small, laminated card, with a picture of the soldier, and basic information regarding his rank and service.

The “Field of Flags” is a fund-raising event organized by Charles Gili and US Hockey Players Support Our Troops foundation, which sells US armed services patches often worn on the jerseys of hockey players around the country. Proceeds from the patches are given to Gold Star Families — families who have lost loved ones in the service.

Gili began organizing “Field of Flags” events in 2007, when he started raising money to help support Gold Star Families living in the Empire State. He did it to honor his own father, a World War II veteran, he said.

Gili also complied profiles on all 283 of the fallen heroes, taking information from the Internet or old newspaper clippings.

“Some of them are incredibly special people,” said Gili. “I think it’s a big misconception that people in the military are there because the can’t do anything else. That’s far from the truth.”

For example, fallen soldier Michael Murphy was a Penn State graduate and the son of a Suffolk County lawyer, Gili said. Murphy could been anything, but opted to be a Navy Seal and died on a special operations mission in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan in 2005.

“The guy had choices,” Gili said. “He could have done a lot of things, but he choose to serve his country.”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

Chance encounter: Kathy Ford of Marine Park bends down to read about a fallen soldier after noticing the “Field of Flags” event in the park on Saturday.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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