One of central Ohio's most recognizable Memorial Day events is honoring the memory of the nation's prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Westerville's Field of Heroes, the annual observance presented by the Rotary Club of Westerville Sunrise, is returning for its ninth year.

Every year, the group places more than 3,000 3-by-5-foot flags in the soccer fields across the street from the Westerville Community Center on Cleveland Avenue.

The flags can be purchased in memory of personal heroes, who don't have to be military veterans. According to the event's website, flags can be dedicated to "any person who has made an impact" on someone's life.

Last year, thousands of poppies joined the flags as a tribute to women who have served in the military. The flowers were so popular that another floral display was added this year, with more than 1,000 potted petunias making a 1,500-square-foot American flag in the field.

Mike Herron, who serves as chairman of the event for the Rotary, said the popularity of the poppies inspired organizers to add another flower-oriented idea.

"The poppies were really popular," he said. "We wanted to try and do something similar, (so) we're bringing in something close to 1,200 potted petunias."

This year, the event benefits the Ohio nonprofit organization Summit for Soldiers, which supports veterans suffering from service-related mental-health injuries. Herron said finding good beneficiaries of the event is an important part of Field of Heroes, and organizers are happy to be working with the group.

"It's a really cool organization that we came in contact with," Herron said.

While no specific count is maintained, Herron said, the Rotary club estimates about 10,000 people visit the display each year.

Herron said Field of Heroes does a good job of capturing the correct mindset for the holiday.

"In the community, you always hear that it reflects the purpose of Memorial Day and bringing memories of those we lost back, which is the sole purpose of what this weekend is about," he said.

The group is already thinking about the display's 10th anniversary next year.

Herron said Rotary members will be asking visitors for "stories about what the field means to them." Responses will be compiled for a special display next year.

The field opens to the public at 1 p.m. Friday, May 26, and stays open 24 hours a day until 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 29.

The field is illuminated at 8 p.m. each night.

Multiple events are to be held throughout the weekend, including a 5K run/walk at 8 a.m. Sunday, a concert by the Central Ohio Brass Band at 7 p.m. Saturday and the playing of taps each night at 8:30 p.m.

The opening ceremony, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, will feature Ann Mills-Griffiths who serves as chairwoman of the National League of POW/MIA Families in Washington, D.C.

A Field of Heroes education tent will have representatives from the National League of POW/MIA Families, Summit for Soldiers and Honor Flight, as well as "The Missing Man Table."

The flags will be available to donors from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday.

For more information, visit FieldofHeroes.org.

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