Special display of flags on Rotary Hill honors veterans
By Hank Beckman For The Sun November 8, 2012 1:42PM
2012 flags along Naperville's Rotary Hill in honor of Veteran's Day on Saturday, November 10, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 10, 2012 6:23AM
Rotary Hill along the Riverwalk is covered with 2012 American flags, and every one of them is made in America.
More than 100 people showed up to set up the Naperville Healing Field of Honor Wednesday, a repeat of the 2009 event designed to honor people who have served in our armed forces, past and present.
The flags are on display through Nov. 13, with a special Veterans Day observance planned there at 11 a.m. Nov. 11.
The organizers assembled about 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Jackson Avenue in downtown Naperville and formed a procession to Rotary Hill, escorted by the Renegade Pigs, a motorcycle group made up of police officers and firefighters.
Mayor George Pradel planted the first flag just before noon, and two groups of about 50 volunteers each installed the rest, working two-hour shifts.
“We wanted to involve as many groups in Naperville as possible,” Healing Field co-chairman Dave Wentz said. “This represents the fabric of our entire community.”
Pradel, a former U.S. Marine, spoke with great feeling about the Healing Field.
“This means more to the community than anyone will ever know,” he said.
Pradel said the countless stories he heard from families during the 2009 presentation left a deep impression.
“They were in awe as they walked through the field,” he said of visitors to the 2009 event.
Jack Shiffler served with the Marines in the Vietnam War and is a regular participant in veterans affairs in Naperville.
“This is one of the most beautiful, patriotic events I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “It (the 2009 event) was one of the most emotional things I’ve ever seen.”
City Council member Paul Hinterlong’s father and two uncles served in the military. That gave additional meaning to the Healing Field for him, he said.
“It’s wonderful for the city to honor its vets and those who served before us,” he said before helping plant flags. “That’s the opportunity that we have here.”
A small army of volunteers braved the chilly, damp weather to help out.
“This is a wonderful tribute to everyone who serves to protect our freedoms,” Rebecca Obarski said. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”
The Healing Field is an event everyone can be part of, organizers said. People wishing to participate have several options. For $30, they can sponsor a flag; $5 more will get them a yellow tag dedicating it to the service person of their choice and another $5 will sponsor the flag and have it shipped to the destination of their choice.
Larger sponsorships are also available.
Operation Support Our Troops, the Naperville Park District and numerous other business and community groups and individuals sponsor the event, which also works to raise awareness and funds to fight the problems of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries related to serving in a war zone.
Healing Field of Honor co-chairwoman and Gold Star Mother Deb Wolfe said the fundraising aspect of the event is important.
“The goal is for us to raise $50,000 through flag sales and Operation Support Our Troops-America will match that effort with an additional $50,000,” she said. “The funds raised from the Healing Field of Honor will go directly to research at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for a better understanding of these conditions and beneficial treatments.”
For more information, or to purchase a flag, go to www.healingfield.org/naperville-il-2012 or call Anna Zimmerman at 630-212-5426 or email her at email@example.com.