FORT POLK, La. — Honor Field is commonly used for Army physical fitness tests, award ceremonies and often graced by the presence of helicopters used in Air Assault training, but COVID-19 restrictions, along with rising temperatures, caused an influx of visitors to utilize the track.
With a quick internet search, Honor Field’s Facebook page tops the results list. The page allows followers to check-in while they use the field for group or individual workouts. People are able to share their fitness goals, achievements and photos from the field.
According to one follower, Karla Garcia, “I’m not sure if many people are aware that this site exists, but I think they are using Facebook to check into the location,” she said. “I just started using Honor Field since gyms closed during the stay-at-home-order.”
Soldiers are finding creative reasons and ways to use the field also. Sgt. Martin Fane, 46th Engineer Battalion, said “I’ve never used the field for squad-level workouts before, but with COVID-19, I figured we could use it to better prepare for future APFTs.”
Honor Field, located off La. Hwy 10, features a one-mile track, a thick tree-lined backdrop, pull-up bars, bleachers and a covered and tiered staging area — it also offers a bountiful history.
From 1943-1946, Honor Field was the site of a prisoner of war camp, housing German prisoners during World War II.
Between 1962 and 1972, the parade field saw more than 1 million infantrymen march across it in graduation ceremonies.
The 5th Infantry Division dedicated the field to Medal of Honor recipients born in Louisiana on Sept. 2, 1972.
Also known as the Red Devils, the 5th Inf Div was reactivated and stationed at Fort Polk in the early 70s, after serving in World Wars I and II and Vietnam. The 5th Inf Div was inactivated for the final time in 1992.
Soldiers and civilian visitors can easily miss the several memorials at Honor Field.
Situated beside the parking lot is a memorial for Pfc. Milton Olive III, a Medal of Honor recipient who sacrificed his life by grabbing a live grenade and absorbing its blast to save his fellow Soldiers during combat in Vietnam.
To the left of Olive’s memorial sits a gazebo containing a list of Louisiana-born Medal of Honor recipients who served during the Vietnam, Korean, WWII and Civil War campaigns.
Another dedication to Medal of Honor recipients in the gazebo lists Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2019 for his service during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Capt. William Swenson, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, received the Medal of Honor at the White House by President Barack Obama on Oct. 15, 2013 for his service during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Finally, the gazebo contains a POW and Missing in Action plaque dedicated to “all American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, both living and deceased,” by the 5th Inf Div and Fort Polk on Sept. 18, 1986.