A massive inkjet printer with UV lights hums away inside a warehouse in Lombard, inching through a task that will help honor the fallen of the Vietnam War during a Veterans Day display in Naperville.
Printers from Blooming Color are creating 70 lightweight aluminum panels containing the names of all 58,000 military members who died in the Vietnam War in chronological order, exactly as they are at the Vietnam Wall memorial in Washington, D.C.
The panels will be lined up to create a wall 241½ feet long and 6 feet tall along the Riverwalk at Rotary Hill in Naperville, where the city will display a Healing Field of Honor for the third time in six years starting Friday, Nov. 6.
"To us it's fantastic," Brian Scott, Blooming Color president, said about playing a role in the Healing Field. "It will be impactful."
After hours of careful proofing to ensure the names in gray block letters were accurately laid out, Scott said the company began the job Thursday. Once printing concludes Monday, the panels will be ready to be installed along wooden supports the Naperville Park District built to create the wall.
The replica wall helps highlight the sacrifices of Vietnam veterans, which plays into the theme of this year's Veterans Day display: "50 Years of Healing." The theme commemorates the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Blooming Color Partner Ray Kinney of Naperville came up with the idea of printing the city's own Vietnam Wall when Healing Field organizers determined they wouldn't be able to get one of the traveling versions of the memorial to come to town.
The display of names will add to the visual appeal at the Healing Field, which will display American Flags ascending Rotary Hill, tagged in honor of area veterans.
But even once the Healing Field is taken down after Nov. 12, Kinney wants it to remain a community asset. He said he'd like to encourage schools, governments, businesses and clubs to take a panel from the replica wall and put it on display, keeping them handy so they can be reassembled for future veteran-themed remembrances.
"My hope is there will be a way that this thing can live on throughout the year," Kinney said.
But first it has to get printed.
Blooming Color designers chose to use thin aluminum panels so they can withstand rain yet be lifted easily onto the frames built by the park district. Printers are marking each panel with a number and an E or W for east or west so park staffers can post them in the correct order. And Tony Consalvo, large format printing manager, has devised a system to ensure his team doesn't print the same panel more than once.
Scott said designers chose to make the panels appear like granite, with the names in a silvery white shining through. The panels start stark white before they're inked with the gray granite-like background, then dried quickly by the printer's UV lights.
"It prints nice and clean so you can read it," Scott said. "The words are actually the white of the material showing through. We print everything else around it."
Healing Field organizers say the replica wall will be an emotionally powerful element of the Healing Field, especially for those who haven't visited the memorial in Washington, D.C., or seen one of the traveling displays.
"I think it'll be very special," Vietnam veteran Wayne Fischer said.