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Draper Journal

Field of Flags event to commemorate Veterans Day at Draper Park

Nov 11, 2020 10:05AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

The Veterans Day Field of Flags event will commemorate veterans and active U.S. service members in Draper Park on Nov. 10, 11 and 12. (Photo courtesy Britnee Johnston/Draper City

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

On Nov. 10, 11 and 12, visitors to Draper Park will be greeted with the sight of hundreds of American flags planted in the grass to honor the city’s veterans and currently serving U.S. military members. In addition, at 11 a.m. on those dates, a lone bagpiper will play military anthems. "It's a new way to celebrate Veterans Day," said Rhett Ogden, director of Parks and Recreation for Draper.

In past years, Draper has hosted a large program with a guest speaker to commemorate the holiday. "Due to COVID, we've had to think of other ways to have an event without a mass gathering," Ogden added. "This year people can come on their own, on their own choosing, and wander the Field of Flags." 

The Field of Flags is just the latest of events hosted by Draper Parks and Recreation which has been re-imagined with social distancing guidelines in mind. Last month, Draper's Haunted Hollow event was transformed into a Haunted Trail Hike. Tickets for the hike were sold out by the third week of October.  

Draper Parks and Recreation has invited members of the public to contribute the name of  a veteran or currently serving U.S. military member to be placed in the Field of Flags free of charge. Each will be recognized by having a sign placed in the Field of Flags that will display their name, branch of service, time of service and a photo. 

Bagpiper Michael Gibbs is looking forward to playing during the three days of the event. "It's quite a special event for pipers to be able to participate in that. Veterans Day has special meaning for me personally, but also because of its World War I heritage," he said. 

Gibbs explained that his father served in Vietnam with the Air Force. He is also mindful of the historical significance of the holiday. Veterans Day occurs on Nov. 11 every year in the United States in honor of the date that signified the end of World War I, known as Armistice Day. 

In 2018, on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, Gibbs participated in a special commemorative event organized by the International Piping College. Bagpipers gathered at the Utah State Capitol Building on that Veterans Day to play "When the Battle is Over." Gibbs explained that bagpipers were in charge of rallying British and Canadian troops during World War I, "marching through fire and battle, playing the pipes through the mud and gunfire." The unarmed pipers were targets of enemy fire and suffered many casualties.

Gibbs has played his bagpipes at many events and special occasions; mostly funerals but some weddings, family reunions and birthdays. He has played for various theater productions of the musical "Brigadoon" over the years as well. As part of the performing group, the Heathen Highlanders, Gibbs has played his bagpipes for the annual St. Patrick's Day celebrations and parade in Salt Lake City. His most recent gig during the pandemic was to play at a nursing home in Highland in which families and friends of the residents formed a parade of cars to greet their loved ones.

He will only play for about 15 minutes per day for the Field of Flags event. His repertoire will be the various anthems of the armed forces. "The proper way to play the anthems is in the order of establishment," Gibbs explained. 

This means that he will play the anthem of the Army, "The Army Goes Rolling Along," followed by the Marine Corps anthem, "The Marines Hymn," the Navy anthem, "Anchors Aweigh," the Air Force anthem, "Wild Blue Yonder," and "Semper Paratus" for the Coast Guard. Gibbs' Field of Flags performance will conclude with TAPS and "God Bless America."

Gibbs took up the bagpipes 33 years ago after hearing them played at a Boy Scout Jamboree. "I've just always loved the sound," he said. Playing for Draper's Field of Flags, he said, is "something that I am proud to do on Veterans Day."

Draper Park is located at 12500 S. 1300 East in Draper.