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Naperville's Healing Field 'very special' way to honor veterans

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  • A field of flags will honor veterans at Naperville's third Healing Field of Honor, which will be open 24 hours a day from Friday, Nov. 6, through Thursday, Nov. 12, at Rotary Hill, 440 Aurora Ave.

      A field of flags will honor veterans at Naperville's third Healing Field of Honor, which will be open 24 hours a day from Friday, Nov. 6, through Thursday, Nov. 12, at Rotary Hill, 440 Aurora Ave.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, NOVEMBER 2012

  • The Healing Field of Honor will invite reflection on the service of veterans when it opens Friday, Nov. 6, at Rotary Hill, 440 Aurora Ave., Naperville. The field will host an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, and a Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.

      The Healing Field of Honor will invite reflection on the service of veterans when it opens Friday, Nov. 6, at Rotary Hill, 440 Aurora Ave., Naperville. The field will host an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, and a Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, NOVEMBER 2012

  • Wooden posts have been built along the Riverwalk at Rotary Hill in Naperville to hold panels that create a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The replica wall will be erected with the Healing Field of Honor, which runs Nov. 6-12.

      Wooden posts have been built along the Riverwalk at Rotary Hill in Naperville to hold panels that create a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The replica wall will be erected with the Healing Field of Honor, which runs Nov. 6-12.
    Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 

The replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., that will be set up with this year's Healing Field of Honor in Naperville contains the names of 11 native sons killed in action during the war that started 50 years ago.

It's easy to overlook that number among a sprawling suburb with a population of nearly 145,000.

But Jayne Luebke-Waite sees it differently because her oldest brother is one of them: John Charles Luebke Jr.

Waite was 5 when Luebke was drafted into the war in February 1967 and not much older when he was killed in July 1968. But she remembers the ripple effects on her family and the 10 others who lost loved ones in the controversial war.

"Naperville at the time was such a small town and we lost 11 of our boys to Vietnam," Waite said. "That's a lot for a small town. That's a lot of loss."

Luebke and the 10 other Naperville men who died in Vietnam -- Christopher Wayne Beavers, Michael James Beirne, Michael Edward Dunn, Walter Joseph Gutowski, Ronald Michael Nowak, Dean Ward Moering, Donald John Porter, Jay Charles Sacks, Edward Michael Sieben and John Braxton Woodall -- will be memorialized with plaques containing their biographies at the Healing Field, which will be open 24 hours a day from Friday, Nov. 6, to Thursday, Nov. 12, at Rotary Hill, 443 W. Aurora Ave.

"I think it'll give people a chance to read the bios that'll be on the plaques and see what these men did and how they served. It'll be something very special," said Vietnam veteran Wayne Fischer of Naperville. "I think people will be humbled in reading their brief bios."

The Veterans Day display honors all those who have served in the military, not only those who fought in Vietnam and not only those who lost their lives, organizers say.

"While we're honoring the Vietnam veterans, this is really for all who have served," said Veronica Porter, public relations chairwoman of the committee planning the Healing Field. "We're thankful for the men and women who serve, but I think we also need to look at the family, how it affects the whole family."

Fischer said families and communities are finding plenty of ways to show gratitude to former military members. But he said the level of humility among veterans extends almost too far, as many feel the honors of Veterans Day aren't for them. He hopes the Healing Field will change that by allowing veterans to reflect on the magnitude of their sacrifice.

"Way too many veterans feel like, 'I didn't serve in combat, therefore I don't deserve this.' That's totally false," Fischer said. "It doesn't make any difference where you served or when you served. The fact that you served and you wore the uniform of our country -- that's what's important to many of us."

This is the third time Naperville has hosted a Healing Field of Honor to celebrate all veterans since Exchange Club and park district leaders first collaborated to form the display in 2009.

The premise remains the same: Roughly 2,000 American flags will be posted in straight rows and columns ascending the hill from the Riverwalk toward Aurora Avenue, creating a patriotic sea of America's colors. Donors can buy flags for $30 each and tags for $5 each that can be added to the flags in honor of veterans.

The charitable cause that benefits from the field changes each year. This time, it will be the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation, established by a veteran from Gurnee to provide stopgap financial assistance to veterans in need.

Lynch will speak at the field's opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, and at the city's Veterans Day ceremony, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, at the field.

Sponsors have covered the cost of the flags, allowing proceeds from all flags purchased to go to Lynch's charity, organizers say. To buy a flag, visit healingfield.org/naperville/, email Anna Zimmerman at annaz@wowway.com or stop by the field once it opens Friday morning.

Stopping by is the key to experiencing the Healing Field and the calm sense of reflection it encourages about the sacrifices of veterans, Porter says. And with the field open at all hours and lighted at night, reflection can occur around the clock.

Luebke-Waite plans to visit the field, as she has the previous two times it's been posted, and buy a flag in honor of her brother. Since John Charles Luebke Jr., died in Vietnam, a memorial at Mill Street Elementary has been created in his memory and his family has sponsored a Little League team every year to carry forward his love of baseball. Those remembrances help, she said, but the presence of the Healing Field is still a powerful community gesture.

"I think it's really great that people are remembering Vietnam veterans that are still around," Luebke-Waite said. "I don't think people realize the impact that serving on the front lines has on the family and has on people that return and have to live with what they went through."

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