Several rows of more than 1,000 American flags stood tall and flapped in the wind as a light breeze swept through the field on the corner of North State Highway 123 and Cedar Street Saturday morning.

While the flags stood tall, families and friends walked through the endless rows of red, white and blue in search of the ones honoring the service men and women in their lives at Seguin’s first Field of Honor.

Each of the flags remembers and honors all veterans, active duty military and first responders.

The Rodriguez family walked together down one row in excitement to show the patriarch of their family, U.S. Army veteran Manuel Rodriguez, the flag they dedicated to him.

“He did 30 years in the service with two tours of Vietnam and we thought this would be something just to honor and celebrate him,” said Esmeralda Rodriguez, Manuel Rodriguez’s daughter.

His family added that Manuel worked his way up as one of the first Hispanics to serve as a command sergeant major.

“He joined the service to help my mom support us and then he just stayed in because he was about 19 years older than us,” said Martha Valenzuela, Manuel Rodriguez’s sister. “My mom didn’t have much money and so he joined the service to help her.”

A few rows over was Nancie Stephens-Gonzales with her husband Alfonso Gonzales. Stephens-Gonzales was taking a photo of the tag of one of many flags her and her husband dedicated.

“I am so proud that our town has brought this Field of Honor here. I purchased flags in honor of my husband Alfonso Gonzales,” Stephens-Gonzales said. “He was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. I purchased a flag in honor of my brother-in-law Oscar Baisden who served in Vietnam, in memory of him.”

There also was one placed in honor of Stephens-Gonzales’ brother Dean Stephens, who served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years and his own daughter Major Angela Stephens of the U.S. Air Force.

“As I said to my husband when we were coming over this morning just to be free to put these flags up and to do what we’re doing, thanks to all those who have served,” Stephens-Gonzales said. “Just to be so proud that we have our freedom to do what we’re doing, to walk across here and sit on our porch and fly our flag in our home. So many don’t have that privilege without the fear of being killed or locked up.”

The Field of Honor was started by the Colonial Flag Foundation just after 9/11. Now several are held around the country annually honoring veterans and first responders.

The inspiration behind Seguin’s first Field of Honor comes after the city of Nixon hosted its own last year.

Seguin’s Field of Honor was welcomed and celebrated Saturday morning with a ceremony held across the street in the Goldie Harris Gym parking lot with patriotic songs performed by Clint Taft along with tunes from the San Antonio Pipes and Drums.

The ceremony opened with the Guadalupe Valley Young Marines presenting colors and closed with the Disabled American Veterans Douge Herrle Chapter 61 performing a three volley salute.

There also were a handful of keynote speakers including Guadalupe County Commissioner Pct. 1 Greg Seidenberger, Seguin Fire Chief Dale Skinner and Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala of the U.S. Marines Corps.

Seidenberger said it’s a special feeling to have a Field of Honor in Seguin.

“To call it a Field of Honor encompasses all those because it says we respect, we love you and we honor you,” Seidenberger said. “I had an uncle in Houston that we called Crazy Eddie because he said you have to be crazy to run towards a fire instead of from it. When I think of our first responders … they put themselves between us and the bad guys and potential death. Our veterans are out there fighting for our freedom. Fighting for our way of life and fighting for our country.”

All the proceeds from this year’s Field of Honor are expected to go toward the SS American Memorial Foundation.

“People come up to me all the time and say ‘Why does your family give your home and your location away for others to live in?’ It’s simple,” SS American Memorial Foundation President Craig Russell said. “For the last 35 years, I’ve been an independent business that’s traveled the world from Istanbul to Cuba many times … I have done it all my own so much so I was able to purchase that ranch from the family so it can be permeant for y’all. I was able to do it was because all of you veterans and first responders had my back. I was able to do it in freedom.”

 

Valerie Bustamante is a staff writer for the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail her at valerie.bustamante@seguingazette.com .

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