A Sea of Patriotism

A line of vehicles led by the Renegade Pigs, a motorcycle club that supports public service members and their families, drove through downtown Naperville bringing 2,012 American flags to Rotary Hill.
Upon arrival, dozens of volunteers got to work setting up the flags for the 2012 Healing Field of Honor.

“Oh there’s no better place to be today. This is veteran’s week,” said Lee Lindberg, Naperville resident and Vietnam veteran.

“I remember the Healing Field from three years ago,” said Rich Yndestad, Naperville resident and veteran. “It was very special. It’s a good thing, and it’s great that the community is doing that.”

Exchange Club member Dave Wentz brought the city’s first Healing Field of Honor to Naperville in 2009 as a way to honor military men and women. The Exchange Club partnered with Operation Support Our Troops, the Park District, and the City of Naperville to set up 2,009 flags, and the community’s response was overwhelming.

“What we found out was the support and the people’s reaction walking through this the first time through was so surreal that it really almost became sacred ground for many people,” said Wentz.

Over the past three years, Wentz received requests from residents to bring back the emotional event, so he once again partnered with the organizations for the 2012 Healing Field of Honor.

“If you’ve ever been to Arlington Cemetery and looked over the stairs at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, take a walk up to the top of Rotary Hill and look down and see the flags flying in the wind. It is that exact feel of it,” said Wentz.

Each flag is for sale. Residents from all across the region can purchase a flag for $30 and for $5 extra, put a tag on the pole to honor a loved one.

“A couple years ago I went up to a lady and asked a lady what the flag meant to her,” said George Pradel, Naperville’s Mayor. “She said ‘When I was young I was engaged to an aviator, he got called away and he never came back, so that’s why I have the flag here.’ Tears came to my eyes as I talked to her.”

2009’s event raised $100,000 for Fisher House at Hines VA Hospital, which provides a home away from home for patients’ families.

This year, the proceeds will go to Dr. Jim Kelly, who does research to find better treatments for military men and women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

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