'There's lots and lots of stories out here': 2,000 flags displayed for Wheaton's Field of Honor
Finding some solemn pageantry somewhere in the loud, bright blur of the Fourth of July may seem next to impossible.
The day is buzzing with noise. Fire trucks wailing. Bands marching. Barbecues sizzling. And then ka-boom! Fireworks.
But there's a place in Wheaton for quiet contemplation. At dawn, there's only the sound of Old Glory fluttering in the summer wind.
"Just as the sun is rising, it's an experience you don't forget," Rudy Keller said.
The retired school principal and a few other early risers are out at 4:30 a.m. walking through the Field of Honor at Seven Gables Park. Keller switches off the floodlights that illuminate the 2,000 American flags during the night. The afternoon still brings calm.
"Even if there were a whole bunch of people here and if there was noise all around, once you start walking through all these flags, just all that noise goes away," Keller said. "The flags wash it out, and within my own mind, it's just very peaceful."
Keller, the Wheaton Park District and hundreds of volunteers turned the soccer field into a poignant display of patriotism. Manhard Consulting, an engineering and surveying firm, plotted 25 perfectly straight rows, with 80 flagpoles in each one.
"The red, white and blue colors are just popping everywhere you look, because I'm just surrounded by 2,000 flags," Keller said.
The flags fly in honor of veterans and active-duty military, loved ones, friends and neighbors. The tags attached to the 8-feet tall flagpoles bear their names and often a message of remembrance.
"All gave some, some gave all," reads a Field of Honor brochure.
"As folks come out here and purchase a flag and they tag it in honor of whoever they want, that flag creates its own individual story," Keller said. "So there's lots and lots of stories out here. Each flag has its own."
People can purchase and take home the $25 flags between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. Proceeds will benefit Warrenville VFW Post 8081 and American Legion Post 589.
Karen Fenney of Wheaton bought two flags Sunday, one in honor of a nephew in the Coast Guard, the other for "everyone who has ever served or is serving.
"I just love having this here," said Fenney, who purchased a flag when they held the event last year. "This is such a wonderful thing and now I'll add two more flags to my yard."
The display will be taken down Tuesday and the VFW is still looking for volunteers to help take down the flags. Organizers said anyone interested can just come by at 9 a.m.
Keller has been tending to fields of flags around DuPage County year after year after year, and it "never gets old." In fact, it energizes him.
"I'm proud to be an American," he said. "And this just oozes with patriotism."