The Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club is presenting a modified Field of Heroes on Memorial Day weekend with a drive-thru experience, featuring 3,000 American flags along County Line Road and Cleveland Avenue, across from the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave.
Dennis Blair, chairman of the Field of Heroes, said the display will be open 24 hours per day, starting at 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 22, and closing at 2:30 p.m. Monday, May 25.
He said the display will be lit at night, creating an emotionally moving experience for those spending some personal time recognizing their heroes.
Blair said this marks the 12th year for the Field of Heroes and the theme honors frontline essential workers.
Bill McMurray, who has been a Rotarian for 30 years, said he's especially appreciative of frontline workers after recently recovering from the COVID-19 coronavirus.
McMurray, 69, said "everyone freaked out" when he tested positive for the coronavirus.
He said he had been in quarantine since March 8, and he figures the only way he could have contracted it was through mail or packages.
"It's a frightening thing to go through," he said. "I was very winded. I had trouble going up and down stairs. I didn't have a fever. I was just exhausted, lethargic. When I got winded, I got tested. I wasn't feeling well for a couple weeks."
McMurray said he wasn't hospitalized but did a telemedicine meeting with his doctor, Dr. Kevin Goist, who is connected with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
"I went through the testing," he said. "It was pretty cool the way it was done. I called my doctor and they moved me to a group that was doing COVID testing. Within an hour, they wanted me tested. I drove near the (Jameson Crane) Sports Medicine (Institute) on Fred Taylor Drive. They have people directing you. They check you in and everyone is in full PPE (personal protective equipment)."
McMurray said he was tested while staying in his car and had results in about 18 hours.
"They send you home and give a list of what you can and can't do. Immediately after testing, they walk you through the whole procedure ... if this happens, call us. Ohio State was very organized."
McMurray said he's fortunate he had a mild case.
He said it was a brilliant idea to recognize the frontline workers at the Field of Heroes because of the pandemic.
McMurray said one of the Rotary's outreach efforts is to help eradicate polio by immunizing children.
"I do foreign exchange trips for Rotary," he said. "A lot of those students are now in the medical field."
Blair said there was much discussion of how to present the Field of Heroes safely.
He said it will primarily be a drive-thru with about 3,000 American flags spaced 6 feet apart.
While the flags would be seen from the roads, Blair said, people are encouraged to drive into the Westerville Sports Complex parking lot off Cleveland Avenue and remain in their cars to get another view of the flags and see displays in tribute to the heroes.
Blair said the flags are in a public park and people are allowed to walk around, but visitors are asked to honor social-distancing rules.
"Unfortunately, in making this as safe as possible, all events that would encourage gatherings have been canceled or modified," Blair said.
Canceled activities include no opening or closing ceremonies, no concert and no education tent, and the tribute area has been modified to address people in their cars.
There also will be no dedications on the flags.
Blair said the modified activities include the 5K Race for Heroes, which has been moved to a virtual run-walk and can be completed independently between May 22 and 25. Registration for that event closed May 15.
Although flag sales have been eliminated, an online "Virtual Tribute" is being created so people can honor their heroes through social media for free.
For more information go to fieldofheroes.org.