Above: Brian Scott and Rosemarie Breske Garvey of Blooming Color inspect the first of the 70 aluminum panels of the replica Vietnam Veterans Memorial that will be displayed at Rotary Hill Nov. 6-12.
This story started nearly a year ago when Naperville resident Marty Walker mentioned that a group was getting together to organize another Healing Field of flags, timed to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Soon after, news was released that the National Healing Field Foundation had joined forces with Operation Support Our Troops-America and the Naperville Park District to present the 2015 Naperville Healing Field of Honor at Rotary Hill along the Riverwalk.
Now after months of organization, the third Healing Field since 2009 will return to downtown Naperville November 6-12, the week leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
American flags once again will be displayed proudly on Rotary Hill as organizers aim to unite the community in recognition of the honorable men and women of the U.S. Military.
The week-long event will honor and remember the 3 million service men and women who left family and friends to fight a politically unpopular war far from home. Visitors to Rotary Hill will have the opportunity to observe that 58 thousand died serving in Southeast Asia and many veterans who returned from the conflict did not receive a worthy welcome home. After five decades, the Naperville 2015 Healing Field of Honor® field of flags will stand as a solemn tribute to those who fought and died during the Vietnam War.
The proceeds from this memorial will go to the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial ’50 Years of Healing’
Vietnam Veteran Wayne Fischer is quick to tell you how impressed he was the first time he met Ray Kinney, listening to the printer’s idea to recreate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to stand tall along with the 2,015 American flags. Fischer has visited the wall in Washington many times since it was established in 1982 and he can’t say enough about Naperville’s efforts to recreate it.
Kinney’s company had invested in a new inkjet printer that prints on aluminum panels and he envisioned a replica of the wall, presenting the idea to the Healing Field Committee.
“I just knew we could do it and I wanted to do it to pay tribute to all who sacrificed. And I wanted to do it right,” Kinney said.
In addition, Julie Loge, a designer for Blooming Color where Kinney is an active partner, remembers when she was asked to help with the design of the tribute.
“I began researching the Vietnam Wall in January of 2015,” Loge said. “It was very interesting to learn all the facts about the wall down to the font they used for the names. All the details were well documented so it was just a matter of making sure the layout matched the original on a smaller scale.”
Naperville’s replica will be 60 percent to scale of the memorial in Washington, D.C.
“Once we decided on the approximate size of the total wall, I got to work recreating it,” added Loge. “I found a background that closely matched the black granite used and it took off from there. Overall it was a very rewarding project and I was honored to be a part of it.”
Then came the time for action from the enormous inkjet printer with ultraviolet lights, stationed in the rear of Blooming Colors’ printing plant in Lombard.
That’s where we observed the printer produce the first of 70 panels for the wall that will honor the fallen of the Vietnam War during a Veterans Day display at Rotary Hill.
Printers from Blooming Color anticipated about four days to print 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 Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The panels will be set in wooden frames to create a wall 241½ feet long in various heights along the Riverwalk at Rotary Hill.
“We appreciate that everyone is so interested,” said Brian Scott, Blooming Color president, as he demonstrated the printing process with the first panel hot off the press.
When printing was finished, the panels were set aside to be installed along wooden supports the Naperville Park District built.
Kinney hopes the wall will be saved for perpetuity by divvying up the panels to various groups. He’d like to see schools, veterans groups, governments, businesses and clubs accept a panel for display, keeping them available to be reassembled in the future.
Blooming Color designers chose to use thin lightweight aluminum panels so they can withstand rain. Still at the last minute, Kinney said they chose to laminate the panels to protect them.
Healing Field organizers anticipate the replica wall will be an educational and emotional element of the Healing Field, especially since another special memorial is being assembled around a tree near the Riverwalk Eatery to honor and pay respect to 11 men from Naperville who sacrificed all during the Vietnam era.
“To me, for a lot of different reasons, it’s a spiritual thing,” Fischer said. “Minimally, it will be very special for all of us to make a Naperville connection.”
Observe Veterans Day at 11AM Nov. 11
Remember that for 2015, the Veterans Day observance usually held at Veterans Park will be moved to the Healing Field of Honor on Rotary Hill.
The ceremony begins at 11AM Wed., Nov. 11, complete with patriotic music and the sounds of the 72-bell Millennium Carillon. The entire community is welcome to attend this annual observance organized by Naperville veterans from the American Legion Post 43 and Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873.
Editor’s update regarding American Flag Sales
During the City Council meeting on Nov. 3, 2015, Healing Field Chairman Marty Walker addressed members (Public Forum “G”) about plans for the flag exhibit, returning for the third time to Rotary Hill to remember service and sacrifice from Nov. 6-12 at Rotary Hill.
Opening remembrances will be held at 10AM Sat., Nov. 7, when Tag-a-Flag will begin.
Afterward, every day from 9AM-5PM, the option to sponsor an American flag ($30 for the flag and $5 for the yellow tag) to honor anyone who has ever served the U. S. military or this country in any way will be available in the Visitors Center set up in the Riverwalk Eatery at the base of Rotary Hill.
Online flag sales have been completed, Walker said.
According to Anna Zimmerman, fundraising chair on the Healing Field Committee since its inception in 2009, flags will be available for sale again in the Riverwalk Eatery throughout the event from 9AM-5PM starting this Friday. Local veterans, members of the American Legion Post 43 and the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873, will be on hand to talk with visitors.
Tag-a-Flag with Locator
“Yes, the Tag-a-Flag event is this Saturday and by noon (Nov. 7) we will tag flags and write down what location they are for those that show up later,” Zimmerman said.
“We’ll be open daily from 9AM-5PM. The Eatery will have full menu. The only item they may not have is soft serve ice cream. If the weather is forecasted to be warm next week they will add ice cream back on the menu.”
In addition to sponsoring flags, Zimmerman noted “some items from the Vietnam War also will be on display in the Eatery and most certainly information regarding the 11 from Naperville. This will be a very emotional week for all.”