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Field of Flags Grows As Tally Rises

Twenty more banners were added to the Field of Flags in front of Saugatuck Congregational Church Sunday, bringing the total to 5,536. Each flag represents an American military casualty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal came as an invited guest of the church to help honor America's fallen soldiers.

"We will never make right the loss of life, but we can make our nation more worthy of their sacrifice by honoring the ideals for which they perished," said Blumenthal.

The attorney general's presence wasn't appreciated by everyone in attendance. At least one person left, referring to Blumenthal as a weasel. No mention was made of his own service record during the ceremony. Afterward, he said he takes full responsibility for statements that led some to believe he had served overseas during the Vietnam era. His service in the Marine Reserve did not take him to the embattled country.

"I made mistakes, and I said I am sorry," said Blumenthal, not dodging questions about the alleged misstatements.

Field of Flags organizers knew they might have to update the display. They had hoped there wouldn't be a need to, but even as the installation was going up five new casualties were reported, though their names were not released. They placed the flags the weekend before last, planning to read the names Sunday. Then new casualties were reported.

"When we planned this, we were expecting to plant four more flags," said Mary Ann West, one of the co-chairs of the church's Field of Flags committee. That turned out to be a frighteningly low estimate. Since the tally taken on June 17, an additional 20 soldiers have been killed in the line of duty.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking," said West. The new total was taken on June 25. West said there is already another flag waiting to join the 5,536 adorning the church lawn.

The final additions will be made next weekend. The five unreleased names will be read along with any others placed on the list between now and then. Barring rain, the display will come down July 6.

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