For a week at Rotary Hill, Naperville Healing Field of Honor paid tribute to all veterans, raising funds to benefit a Fisher House at Hines VA Hospital
Volunteers set up 2,009 American flags on Rotary Hill in conjunction with Veterans Day and the field of red, white and blue attracted thousands of visitors from all over the region from Nov. 8-14, 2009. And what an awesome sight it was!
Hosted by the Naperville Exchange Club in collaboration with the Naperville Park District, the Naperville Healing Field of Honor provided a place of peaceful reflection, giving individual donors who purchased flags for $30 each a chance to tie a yellow ribbon with a commemorative message for $5 as a way to say thanks to anyone who has ever served our great nation.
The weeklong exhibit was enhanced by other events, too, featured here in text from the end to the beginning!
On Nov. 14, the Exchange Club dedicated a new plaque at Veterans Plaza along the Riverwalk. The plaque is engraved with the names of eight soldiers and sailors from Napervillle who have given the ultimate sacrifice serving the United States military since Sept. 11, 2001.
During the Rotary Club of Naperville meeting on Thurs., Nov. 12, President Pat Merryweather honored 32 veterans, all members of the service club established in Naperville in 1941.
Naperville Healing Field of Honor Chairman Dave Wentz attended the Rotary luncheon with Paul Swenson of the Colonial Flag Foundation to thank them for their support. Not only did the Rotary Club sign on as a supporter early in the project, their board purchased an additional 22 flags as a tribute to every veteran in their club.
During the luncheon, Rotarian John Robbins was so excited he could hardly speak. His good news to club members was that the 4-year-old boy running up Rotary Hill among the American flags pictured on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times on Veterans Day was his grandson, Beckham.
After their luncheon meeting, the Rotary veterans took the Naperville Trolley to Rotary Hill along the Riverwalk where they could see their individual flags standing tall. Club member Jini Clare took individual photos of Rotarians next to their flags.
In the afternoon of Veterans Day, local and state officials gathered to rededicate the Civil War Cannon in Central Park with local historians from Naper Settlement.
At 11AM, Nov. 11, under sunny skies, hundreds gathered at Rotary Hill for Naperville’s annual Veterans Day observance to honor all men and women in the military, a fitting tribute coordinated by Jack Shiffler, an officer at the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873.
“Let us not make it a field of mourning,” said Shiffler, a Marine who served in Vietnam. “Let us make it a feeling of honor and remembrance.”
Poetry, patriotic music by the Naperville Municipal Band, carillon bells and a few short speeches punctuated the ceremony led by Chairman Wentz, also a past president of the Naperville Exchange Club.
During the ceremony, Swenson, who originated the idea of the Colonial Flag Foundation Healing Field for the first anniversary of Sept. 11 in Utah, said veterans inspire him “to be a better father, husband and citizen.”
Also during the Veterans Day tribute, Deb Rickert, founder of Operation Support Our Troops- Illinois, said her organization would match the money raised by the Naperville Healing Field of Honor Committee to help fund a Fisher House at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.
According to www.fisherhouse.org, a Fisher House is “a home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers. The homes are normally located within walking distance of the treatment facility or have transportation available. There are 43 Fisher Houses, with several under construction, including one at Hines VA Hospital, the first one in Illinois.
Earlier in the week, many supporters tied placards on flags with yellow ribbons.
“When the flags wave, you feel that the hill is alive with love and time to reflect on our freedom, our veterans and everyone who has served our country,” said supporter Bev Eigenberg, the mother of a son who served in the Marines and wife of a World War II pilot. “Parents should bring their children to experience the event. Young children may not understand it, but they will never forget seeing 2,009 American flags in so many rows.”
Belgio’s Riverwalk Eatery stayed open daily for refreshments and flag sales ($30) organized by Fundraising Chairman Anna Zimmerman. Flags with tags ($35) were available at the Eatery until nearly all 2,009 sold. Approximately 300 tags remained at the end of Veterans Day, according to Zimmerman.
“Many visitors gave cash or wrote checks without purchasing a flag,” she said, noting that she emptied the red, white and blue barrel “bank” every evening, painted by volunteer Jeff Penick.
A guest book in the Riverwalk Eatery gave visitors a chance to comment. “Wow!” “Inspirational!” are probably the two most-used remarks.
In addition to seeing the red, white and blue field of Old Glory at ground level from the Riverwalk, visitors viewed the exhibit from observation decks in Moser Tower for $3.