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Field of Honor opens with dedication of 10 flags in Fayetteville

The 2014 Field of Honor opened Saturday with the dedication of 10 flags, honoring nine military service members and one civilian for their service to the United States.

The Field of Honor, a joint effort by the Downtown Alliance and the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, features nearly 1,000 American flags displayed on the museum's Parade Field on Bragg Boulevard.

The flags will be on display through June.

Brig. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony.

Sonntag's address focused on the history and symbolism of the American flag, hundreds of which served as the backdrop for his speech.

"As I look across this field of American flags, I think of freedom, liberty and pride," he said. "The American flag has flown on countless mountaintops, on the moon and on battlefields across the world. It's how America signs her name."

The field is in its eighth year, and it is the only one of its kind in the state.

This year's 10 honorees included four living veterans - retired Army Sgt. First Class Wrilshxer Mendoza, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Hester "Hoopy" Qualls, Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Woodring and Army Sgt. Maj. James Lambert.

Five deceased military services members were recognized. They were Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Rudy Hernandez, Air Force Sgt. Fritz Healey, Army Maj. John Koenig, Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers and Army Sgt. Ernest Massei Jr.

Henry Cuningham, longtime military editor at The Fayetteville Observer who died August, was the only civilian to be honored at this year's ceremony.

Mayor Nat Robertson welcomed the dozens of people who turned out for the ceremony.

He called the field "a celebration of those who have sacrificed and given on behalf of this country."

Steven Moore of the Downtown Alliance also addressed those in attendance.

The honorees, or in some cases, their family members and friends, were escorted by members of the veterans' motorcycle club Rolling Thunder, Chapter 1, which has participated in the Field of Honor ceremony each year since the first event in 2005.

John Parker is the club's state coordinator.

"They should have a Field of Honor in every community," Parker said. "Because there are veterans in every community that deserve to be recognized."

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