The flags that line Eola Road at Metea Valley High School in Aurora are just the beginning.
The real display -- a Healing Field of stars and stripes 1,000 times over -- is behind the school on a football practice ground.
The flags by the road draw visitors back onto school property, past the auditorium and the athletic wing and the pool, beyond the eastern edge of the building to the spot where the flags wave gently in carefully straightened rows.
The Healing Field is a site where veterans and fallen heroes are paid homage and where the public can stop by for free between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. through Veterans Day.
"It really just gives you a moment to pause for reflection," Metea Principal Darrell Echols said.
Retired West Aurora High School Principal Rudy Keller led Echols and volunteers in organizing the Healing Field as a weeklong tribute to veterans and a learning opportunity for Metea students.
The highlight for students could be an all-school assembly at 1 p.m. Friday, in which four-star, active-duty Gen. Darren McDew will speak along with Medal of Honor recipient Allen Lynch. West Aurora students will hear a similar assembly at 8 a.m. Friday, and the public is invited to an evening version at 6 p.m. Friday at West Aurora, 1201 W. New York St.
"It certainly ties in with the history of our nation and the history of service in America and how many people have given their lives throughout history to preserve the freedoms we enjoy every day," Echols said about the field he helped volunteers put together Tuesday morning.
Attached to many of the 1,000 American flags at the Healing field are yellow laminated half-sheets of paper, placed there by donors who paid $35 to tag the flags. Tags honor grandfathers, brothers, uncles, neighbors, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and veterans in general. The message is up to the donor, said Metea parent and volunteer Betsy Kluge of Aurora.
Kluge heard of the Healing Field when the tributes were set up a couple of years ago on Rotary Hill in Naperville and last year at West Aurora High School, but she never made it to see the patriotic display many describe as serene, peaceful and reflective.
"Until it was brought here to us, it's like you've heard of it, but you didn't comprehend what it meant," Kluge said. "It's like walking through history when you walk down these rows."
Flags are still available to be tagged, and people can buy a tag from a volunteer at the site or online at http://www.healingfield.org/aurora14/.
No matter the hour, a visit to the Healing Field will bring the sight of eight-foot-tall flags in long rows assembled in two hours by 85 Metea students. Lights will illuminate the field after sunset until volunteers leave each evening at 10.
Keller's favorite time to visit is first thing in the morning.
"Around sunrise, many times the flags are just pretty still or fluttering a little bit. And as that sun comes up, I think that's one of my favorite times to be among the flags," Keller said. "It's an inspirational, overwhelming, patriotic sense of fulfillment, and it kind of brings peacefulness to your inner soul."