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Dishonoring the flag

Thieves steal generator at annual veterans' Field of Honor event
by: contributed photo, These flags are part of the traveling Field of Honor, which is placed in several Oregon communities each year to help people remember U.S. war veterans. This year in Sandy, a theft marred the observance.

Anyone who has traveled Highway 26 near Sandy has seen the field of American flags placed for a week in late May near Champion Way. Hundreds are marked with names to memorialize the lives of veterans who paid the ultimate price serving their country.

But the Field of Honor, placed every year at the western edge of Sandy, this year was dishonored by thieves.

Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, was the highlight of the weeklong flag exhibit, when the Veterans of Oregon (VOA), Vietnam Veterans of America and Sandy VFW Post 4273 honored three more American heroes, including Keaton G. Coffey of Boring, who was killed in action last month.

Keaton's family was present at the Field of Honor, including his parents and his fiancee (they had wedding plans for next month).

But after the ceremonies, when the generators were running and the bright lights gave proof that our flags were still there, one or more people came along, unplugged a couple of lights and walked away with one of the 5,000-watt generators.

The exhibit, installed for an entire week, is lighted at night with 10 bright flood lights, powered by four strong generators, with fuel costs of more than $100 a night to operate, according to VOA liaison John Neuman of Welches.

Neuman said he had just finished rolling up all of the flags Monday night and decided to get some food before loading the last of the exhibit and moving out.

But when he returned, he discovered one of the generators was missing.

The generator is black and red, a Generac 5,000-watt portable unit. It is very heavy, he said, but has two wheels to make it easier to move around. In addition, Neuman said, the generator has four 120-volt outlets and one 210-volt outlet.

Two nonprofit groups, which are funded through donations, have been responsible for the exhibit for the past nine years, which Neuman says travels to several locations around Oregon each year.

The project is promoted and funded by donations through the Veterans of Oregon and the Vietnam Veterans of America. Local sponsors of the Sandy exhibit include VFW Post 4273, Geren's Farm Supply, Sub Shop and two restaurants from Welches: Barlow Trail and The Shack.

Neuman says he needs all four generators to power the large lights that illuminate the Field of Honor. He is asking anyone responsible to return the generator, 'with no questions asked.'

Neuman is particularly distressed because the theft happened on Memorial Day, the day set aside to honor all veterans.

'We need this piece of equipment,' he said. 'We ask that you return it - no questions asked. Honoring veterans is our mission, and (this exhibit) means more to all who served, and their families, than anyone could ever sell (the generator) for.'

The Oregon Field of Honor-Traveling Veterans Memorial is sponsored by the two nonprofit groups along with local sponsors wherever it is displayed.

The exhibit consists of a field of 1,000 of our nation's flags - all made in America. Among those flags, including some flown over the U.S. Capitol, are more than 600 names of Oregon vets and some from other states. Also among the names are the 134 from Oregon who lost their lives in the most recent conflicts in the Middle East. All families receive a medal to commemorate the life of their family member.

Police are advising that a voluntary return of the generator isn't very likely - unless there's a change of heart from the thief or thieves.

The other chance for recovery, police told Neuman, is if the generator is offered for sale it might be recognized.