Families honor military at dedication ceremony (Video)
May 14, 2013 at 12:14 a.m.
The 3-year-old who hasn't seen his dad in almost a year searched for that one American flag that tells everyone what he already knows - his dad is a hero.
It wasn't an easy task with 2,215 flags flying at Faith Family Church for the Warrior's Weekend Field of Honor, but young Jackson Vermillion zeroed in on the right flag with help from his grandma, Sherre Clegg.
"He thought all of the flags were there for his daddy. But we showed him the three that had his dad's name on it. We took him out there to explain to him what it was about," Clegg said. "It is important he understand that what his daddy is doing is worthwhile and important, that it is not just a regular job - it is a job for your country."
Jackson's dad and Clegg's son, Lt. Austin Vermillion with the U.S. Navy, deployed to Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2012.
The separation is a sacrifice for the family, especially Jackson and Vermillion's 12-year-old daughter, Avery, said his ex-wife, Erika Vermillion.
"He has missed first days of school, showing an animal for the stock show - there has been so much. ... It is just having to catch up on a whole year of memories," she said.
Which is why the family was eager to buy three flags, at $40 apiece, to honor their very own American hero.
And the entire family - Erika Vermillion, the two children, Austin Vermillion's mom and his grandparents all came to the Warrior's Weekend Field of Honor Dedication Ceremony on Tuesday night.
Erika Vermillion said the service was a comfort to the family, who are all eager to get their son, dad and friend back home in June.
"It reminds people to not take their freedoms for granted. There are people that serve our country and let us live in this very free world. I think people often think the war is over, but by no means is it over. People are still over there still," she said.
Col. Michael Petrash said when he retired after 25 years in the U.S. Navy and came back to Victoria in 2008, he wanted to start a Field of Honor in Victoria.
He and Ron Kocian, founder of Warrior's Weekend, came together to make the field a possibility.
In 2009, the first year of the Warrior's Weekend Field of Honor, they sold 550 flags.
This year, Petrash said they ran out of flags Saturday and have had to order more, which will make a total of 2,515 when the new flags come in.
"The initial intent was to honor veterans and servicemen. ... What we found out is that the warriors who come here are greatly encouraged because each flag represents someone who thinks like they think, values what they value and honors the sacrifice these guys have made," Petrash said.
Petrash said they are even running out of room in the field at Faith Family Church.
They dedicated the field to Ronnie Burden and Shannon Fisher, both former volunteers for the field and former servicemen of Victoria who died this year, Petrash said.
Clegg, Austin Vermillion's mother, came out Mother's Day to honor her son.
"They had the flags illuminated, and we stood there and hugged and wiped away tears. Tears were just rolling down our face," Clegg said, as she looked over all the flags that represent current servicemen, fallen heroes and veterans.