'Healing Field' inspires, honors veterans in Naperville
The scene inspires quiet. Reflection.
Even as cars whiz past on nearby Aurora Avenue, the rows upon rows of flags at Naperville's "Healing Field of Honor" on Rotary Hill motivate visitors to pause for a moment with their thoughts — thoughts about sacrifice, bravery, honor, veterans.
Those thoughts bring actions — taking photos, teaching children, tying tags to flags in honor of a special veteran — and even tears.
The mood of the scene changes with the weather and the hour, so organizers encourage visitors to stop by at various times before the exhibit's last day on Tuesday.
In wind and quiet, dawn, dark and dusk, "It brings different emotions," said Deb Wolfe, co-chairwoman of the Healing Field, which is back for the first time since 2009. "To me when I see this, it's a sense of country and honor."
Volunteers on Wednesday placed 2,012 American flags on eight-foot poles now waving at the Healing Field in a tribute to veterans that also is raising money for traumatic brain injury research.
Supporters can buy a flag for $30, or $35 with a yellow tag on which to write a message to honor a veteran or service member. Flags are available at the Riverwalk Eatery or online at healingfield.org/naperville.
Proceeds will support traumatic brain injury research and will be matched by Operation Support Our Troops America, which is partnering with the Naperville Park District and other community groups to play host to the Field of Honor.
"It's very nice that we can show our appreciation," David Rejmenczak of Naperville said as he prepared to hang two tags in honor of his son, Michael, a 37-year-old Army helicopter pilot.
Jill Falda of Naperville visited the field Thursday morning with her son, Danny, to remember a cousin of her sister-in-law who was killed in action in 2009, and "to try to teach a 3-year-old why the flags are here."
The field has a personal connection for many who visit and worked to organize it.
Susan Wren of LaSalle snapped photos of an Air Force sign as she walked through the field Thursday with her daughter, Ann Letzel of Naperville. As Wren waited for a flag near the sign to blow into perfect position, she recalled her five close relatives who served in the military — uncles in the Air Force, Navy and Marines and two brothers in the Army. A few tears fell.
"We're lucky to have these men and women who serve," she said.
"It's a nice honor for their sacrifice and bravery," Letzel said. "It's very moving."
Naperville will hold its Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Sunday at the field, and visitors will be able to climb to the observation deck of the Moser Tower to see the flags from above. The Millennium Carillon will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
"I do feel there are soldiers next to the flags," said Anna Zimmerman, Healing Field fundraising chairwoman. "I do feel they're here with us."
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