NORTH ADAMS -- Over 6,500 flags fill the lawn of the First Con gregational Church on Main Street for the next three weeks, each one representing a fallen soldier from the Iraq and Afghan istan wars.
"Field of Flags," a traveling installation that has been on display in 10 states, was dedicated Saturday morning during a ceremony outside the church led by the Rev. Pat Kriss.
"This is not just a dedication of these flags, it's a dedication of all of us to go forth and act," Kriss said.
She encouraged the approximately 50 people attending the dedication to support the families of soldiers "who know the meaning of loss," and to reach out to veterans who have returned from combat "wounded in places that only the heart can see."
"Be a presence to warriors who return from their service, changed to their core, haunted by the black dog of depression," she said. "Say ‘thank you' to the neighbor, the family member, who defined his or her role in peacemaking in the armed services."
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, said that, looking over the flags, a picture is worth a thousand words, and each flag probably had a thousand stories to tell.
"You can hear them now," she said.
A brief moment of silence followed in which the only sound was the 6,505 flags rustling in the wind.
"For me, on that day, my mind was forever etched with the magnitude of loss," he said. "I would not even realize, until many years later, that all of the more than 250,000 graves were only a small fraction of the American lives lost in wars."
Saturday's dedication had brought back the memories of his visit to Arlington National Cemetery, Alcombright said.
"I feel as deeply saddened as I gaze upon all of the beautiful flags here that memorialize and honor those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.
During the ceremony, Don ald Washburn, a member of the First Congregational Church, read the names of the 43 Massachusetts soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Kriss' husband, Gary, then read the names of the 77 Massachusetts soldiers killed in Iraq.
"Please know that each of these names, each of these 77 souls, stand for the names there on that board," Gary Kriss said. "May their souls, and all the souls of their fallen comrades, rest in peace."
Accompanying the flags was a board listing the names of all the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since those conflicts began. Kriss said after the ceremony that three names were added to the board over the last couple of days.
Louis Floriani, chaplain of American Legion Post 125 in North Adams, made an observation prior to thanking those who had made the installation's visit to the city possible.
"I ask each and every one of you to look to the person on your right, and then to the person on your left. Think of your family members and half the population of the city of North Adams, and that would still not equal the sacrifice in front of you," he said.
"Field of Flags" originated at the Somers Congregational Church in Connecticut in 2005. It will be at the First Con gregational Church until July 21.