The VFW Post 577 and volunteers from organizations all over the Tulsa area are honoring fallen service members and their families with a powerful display called the “Field of Heroes” this Memorial Day.
Sgt. Anthony Peterson, Staff Sgt. Kirk Owen, Pvt. First-Class Sarina Butcher are three of 403 combat boots on a small hill across from the downtown VFW Post.
"When Memorial Day begins, all of our fallen come into formation and they are here throughout the weekend," said VFW Post 577 Commander Joshua Starks.
Each pair of boots has a picture of a fallen Oklahoman attached to the laces.
"This was geared toward allowing post 9-11 veterans to have a place of their own," said Starks.
These boots represent 403 stories of sacrifice, 403 individual lives, 403 families left behind.
"It is me keeping that promise, a promise I made a long time ago to my soldiers. I asked them to keep this promise for me if I didn't come home. Doing this and working with our veterans is making sure that our promises, carry through," said Starks.
Some people leave coins on the boots. Pennies from people who are showing respect. Nickels symbolize someone who trained at bootcamp with that man or woman. Quarters represent someone who was there when that service member died. Some families leave bags of candies, others tie crocheted poppies onto the laces.
"A poppy itself since WW1 represents the soul of the fallen," said Starks.
You catch little moments while you're standing out in the field, taking in the display. Little moments that turn in to bigger, significant moments- like this one from a family who drove from Oklahoma City so that little baby Oliver could take his first picture with his big brother Kaleb. On this day, one year ago, the family said they were laying Kaleb to rest.
"For Gold Star families, Memorial Day is every day. It is not a happy day to celebrate, it is not a 4-day weekend for them. It is a day for the public to understand what their everyday is like," said Shannon Lucas with Survivor Outreach Services.
"They will not be forgotten. We will remember this sacrifice," said Starks.
The VFW Post 577 is taking donations of combat boots for future displays and projects- they can be from any era, any branch and any color.