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2:13 AM Wed, Nov. 14th

3,000 flags planted at Healing Field for 9/11 ceremony

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>
Paul Gersper, a Korean War veteran and member of American Legion Post 106, straightens some of the 3,000 American flags at the Prescott Valley Civic Center Healing Fields. The flags honor those lost on 9/11, in wars and other tragedies.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br> Paul Gersper, a Korean War veteran and member of American Legion Post 106, straightens some of the 3,000 American flags at the Prescott Valley Civic Center Healing Fields. The flags honor those lost on 9/11, in wars and other tragedies.

The Healing Field of Northern Arizona officially will open at the Prescott Valley Civic Center today, with an opening and blessing ceremony starting at 8:40 a.m. sharp, and ending at 9:20 a.m.

Dozens of volunteers gathered on Aug. 24 to assemble 2,000 new U.S. flags to complete the 3,000-flag display. Also this year, a special display of 20 flags will honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30, and survivor Brendan McDonough.

Early Friday morning, volunteers posted the flags on the Civic Center lawn. The undertaking is three times as large as its inaugural year in 2012.

Healing Field and Field of Honor displays originally began as a visual way to comprehend the sheer enormity of the loss of American lives from terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Now in addition to being expressions of mourning, the displays across the country honor the fallen from 9/11, wars and other tragedies, and offer a healing experience to those who witness the waving multitude of flags.

Volunteer coordinator for the Veteran Memorial Pipers Corps J'aime Morgaine explained that the pipers will play for the opening ceremony and at dedicated times during the week the Healing Field is up in Prescott Valley.

"Every day the Healing Field is open, there will be at least one piper at 9:11 a.m., noon and sunset (6 -7 p.m.)," Morgaine said. "And also from 7-7:20 p.m. - or 19:20 p.m. in military time- at the Hotshot memorial flags, symbolic that 19 out of 20 perished."

Morgaine will give opening remarks at today's ceremony, a chaplain will provide a blessing, and Prescott Valley Mayor Harvey Skoog and other dignitaries will be on hand, in addition to the bagpipers.

"The ceremony will be a wonderful symbolic nugget of awareness," she said.

Prescott Valley Council Member Mary Mallory, who started the local Healing Field ball rolling early in 2012, said family members of Hotshot Clayton Whitted plan to attend from Casa Grande. Other families also might attend.

Prescott Valley's annual 9/11 ceremony takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the Civic Center amphitheater, next to the Healing Field.

The last official day for the 2013 Healing Field is Friday, Sept. 13. Volunteers will take down flags on Saturday, Sept. 14.

"What I like about the whole thing is people have certain gifts and they add to it," Mallory said. "I admit when I started this, I had moments when I didn't want to do this, but things pull on your heart. I kind of feel ashamed that my doubt was almost overtaking me."

But, she said, the community's positive response has been overwhelming.

"I heard from some veterans that they got up at 2 a.m. when they couldn't sleep and went to the Healing Field to just walk among the flags," Mallory said. "I like the way it captures people in different ways. What it will do is, it will empower people."

She said she's been amazed at how uplifting Healing Field activities - from initial flag assembly to taking down the flags - have been, not only for herself, but for community members as well.

Cheryl Hartz is a reporter for the Prescott Valley Tribune.