By Karen Zautyk
If you have been were driving on Ridge Road recently, you could not help but notice the sea of small American flags adorning the lawns around St. Michael the Archangel Church at the corner of Page Ave.
Officially, it is known as the Field of Flags, a project that began in Somers,Conn., in 2005 with 2,231 flags: One for each serviceman or woman killed in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Flags are added as the casualty list grows.
On Sunday, the number in Lyndhurst totaled 6,759.
The Field of Flags idea originated at the Somers Congregational Church, which still sponsors the memorial. Thus far, it has been displayed outside churches of various denominations across a dozen states.
The Lyndhurst project was coordinated by Mary Corrao from St. Michael’s. Representatives from Somers arrived Friday morning to place the flags, with the help of local residents, including veterans and members of Scout troops, a task that took several hours.
According to Somers Congregational, “The Field of Flags is a silent, patriotic and poignant reminder of the cost of war. Each flag represents not simply one casualty, but all the family members and friends who have been touched by that life now gone.
“They represent our respect for those who have served and are currently serving in the military and our hope for peace in the future, for a time when no one is called upon by our country to give the greatest sacrifice.”
To show that respect, St. Michael’s held a simple but touching interfaith memorial service Sunday afternoon. Participating clergy included Father Stanley Kostrzomb of the host parish; Father Jim Starasinich of Sacred Heart Church, Lyndhurst; Pastor Martha Day of United Presbyterian Church, Lyndhurst, and the Rev. Donald Pitchen of Carlstadt Presbyterian Church.
Mayor Robert Giangeruso gave the welcoming address to the congregation, but there were no long speeches. There were songs from the Lyndhurst High School.
Chorale and Sal Russo; a POW/MIA ceremony by Lyndhurst veterans’ organizations, which also offered a rifle salute; recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; and the haunting sound of “Taps,” by the Lyndhurst High School Buglers.
And, of course, there were prayers for the fallen and for their families.
But the most moving part of the ceremony was the reading of the names of the New Jersey men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The printed program for the service listed 183, but another was noted from the altar: that of Sgt. Timothy Raymond McGill of Ramsey, whose death in Afghanistan was reported only the night before.
As each name echoed through the church, it was a reminder of patriotism, grief, sacrifice and love.
And, we were told, one of the 6,759 flags was for McGill. Somers Congregational always sends along extras, in case the death toll increases while the display is in place.
It will be in place at St. Michael’s for three weeks.
Pay a visit if you can.
You owe to yourself, and to the fallen.