Sunday, May 25, 2008

Portneuf Gap Idaho, A Place of Reflection

(Portneuf Gap's Hallowed Ground, photo by Jake Putnam)
Four thousand, five hundred crosses stand in a soccer field south of Pocatello, Idaho, each cross represents a fallen soldier.

For the past five years fellow veterans have erected the Field of Heroes to remember fallen comrades and those still fighting in distant lands.

There are thousands of Memorial Day events but this is the only one where all the fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq are represented with crosses in the Field of Heroes at Century High School.

"I don't think there's anybody looking at this field that doesn't get a lump in their throat," said Kathleen Stephens, Pocatello Fallen Soldier's Mother.

Blake Stephens of Pocatello, Kathleen's son, was killed in action May 8th last year. He was 25 years old and served for seven years in the military. Blake was Pocatello's first fallen soldier.

Just three months later, a second local boy, 23-year-old Nick Gummersall, also passed away during his fourth tour in Iraq.

"It's just... It's a lot of boys that died," said Clay Gummersall, father of the fallen hero.

All of Idaho's 39 soldiers are prominately represented, and especially the two from Pocatello.

"We shall not forget. We will carry their sacrifices forever," said Ralph "Doc" Lillig, Hospital Corps on Fridays opening ceremony.

"I think it's important to understand the price of freedom. Every cross makes you remember someone that's not coming home," said Heidi Young, Ceremony Coordinator.

The reality of war and it's casualties drive home the point that freedom doesnt come without a terrible cost.

"I'm trying to do more now to be concerned with others whose parents have a loss. I hope to be around them and give them my strength," said Kathleen Stephens.

This memorial is careful not to glorify those who've fallen, but rather to recognize, respect and honor.

The field of Heroes will be displayed for the entire weekend until Monday. It's located off I-15 at the Portneuf Gap exit at Century High School. The closing ceremony will take place at 7 pm on Monday.

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