Merced CA Field of Honor happening with COVID-19 precautions

Eufemia Didonato

Merced’s annual tradition of paying homage to America’s heroic military and law enforcement men and women is once again moving forward.

This year’s display will have a few slight changes, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eighth Merced Field of Honor is scheduled to be on display Saturday Nov. 7 through Sunday Nov. 15 on Merced College’s front lawn. There, more than 1,000 American flags will be posted, paying homage to first responders, veterans and military men and women — living and dead.

Organizers have worked with Merced College and the Merced County Department of Public Health to make sure they can provide a safe venue during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sara Fleszar-Pavlovic, event co-chairperson along with her husband Mike Pavlovic, said the flags are often sponsored by friends and family with loved ones who have served.

“The Field of Honor is much more than flags and tradition,” Fleszar-Pavolic said.

“It honors not only members of our community who have served, but it also honors the best in each and every one of us. It represents our ability to persevere in the face of adversity, our dedication to one another, and our willingness to sacrifice for a better tomorrow for our children and their children.

The Field of Honor will be open noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 7-8 and Nov. 14.

From Monday, Nov. 9 through Friday, Nov. 13, the display will be open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Sunday, Nov. 15, the display will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m..

It was started by the Merced Sunrise Rotary Club, with inspiration from former Rotarian Bob Hobbs and wife Betsy Donovan Hobbs. “(Betsy and Bob) visited the Murrieta Field of Honor and (were) touched by the celebration of 2,012 flags flying to honor those who serve our nation and our communities,” Fleszar-Pavlovic said.

The field will also have sections dedicated to honoring military and first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice, plus a section devoted to the history of the American flag.

COVID-19 precautions

Organizers had to do extra planning this year to make sure the event meets COVID-19 safety precautions.

“We have been coordinating with the Merced County Department of Public Health and Merced College to provide a safe venue for our volunteers and visitors,” Fleszar-Pavolic said.

“The Field of Honor has been deemed an ‘outside museum’ and as such we will be following COVID-19 protocols for outside museums. We will be taking all necessary precautions such as screening volunteers for COVID-19 symptoms each day, requiring masks for all individuals on the field, and practicing social distancing.”

Many events linked with the Field of Honor had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic. Some of those events include the field’s opening and closing ceremonies and Merced’s annual Run for the Fallen — plus school field trips and flag retirement ceremonies.

There will also be no flags purchased at the field. All new flags and re-flys must be purchased in advance online at www.mercedfieldofhonor.org.

Fleszar-Pavolic said community members have come together to create videos that will run during the week of the Field of Honor on the event’s Facebook page.

Organizers hope the Field of Honor display brings a sense of normalcy and unity to the community.

“Our diverse community in Merced is most evident on the Field, where men and women of every color and creed smile proudly from photographs donated by loving family members, and where we celebrate them for the content of their character,” Fleszar-Pavolic said.

For more information about the Merced Field of Honor, visit https://www.facebook.com/MercedFieldOfHonor

Sports writer Shawn Jansen has been covering Merced area sports for 20 years. He came to Merced from Suisun City and is a graduate of San Diego State University. Prior to the Sun-Star, Shawn worked at the Daily Republic in Fairfield.

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