Why Wheaton’s Field of Honor “exudes patriotism”
Rudy Keller watches over Wheaton Field of Honor, a poignant display of 2,000 American flags arranged in rows with military precision.
It is his patriotic duty to return to the field at Seven Gables Park to turn on the floodlights illuminating the flags all night long, from sunset to sunrise, until the display is removed after July 4.
Keller finds quiet times to read the labels attached to the 8-foot-high flag poles in tribute to loved ones, friends and neighbors who have served.
Early Thursday, Keller, a retired high school principal, was performing the ritual when he met a man.
“I was like, well, who’s here at 4 am,” he said.
So Keller approached the man and the two started talking.
The man had sponsored a flag and wrote the dedication on the label. He wanted to take a picture of the stars and stripes with the right lighting, against the rising sun.
Keller asked him about the person he honored on the card. Keller didn’t know how they were related.
He said, ‘I’ll just tell you his name and you can search for him. “”
Keller went home and did just that to find out who the person behind the name was: Lyle Bouck. It turns out that Bouck’s army unit was one of the most decorated in WWII and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
“If you read about him, it’s like, wow, the many things that kid – he’s a kid – that he did,” Keller said.
This is the power of the Field of Honor. Each label on the flags tells a story. And in doing so, we remember the soldiers of a generation of yesteryear.
“It’s very peaceful, very solemn, and it’s brimming with patriotism,” Keller said.
To create a sea of red, white and blue, Keller worked with the Wheaton Park District, volunteers, and Manhard Consulting, an engineering and surveying company that drew perfectly straight rows.
The display also serves as a fundraiser for the Warrenville VFW Post 8081 and American Legion Post 589, with the flags available for purchase at the park and online.
Keller has installed flags in DuPage County for about 15 years. But he still feels the emotional weight.
“It grips my heart,” he said, “and brings a tear to my eye.”