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Mixed emotions

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By Shannon Brock

A bittersweet aura floated through the crowd during the American Legion Auxiliary’s Healing Field and Veterans Day Ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

Those in attendance seemed saddened to have to raise 11 new flags at the Healing Field, but triumphant to have a place to honor the state’s fallen heroes — especially since its grounds were flattened during a storm five months ago.

The Healing Field on Broadway is the only permanent healing field in the United States. In it stands a flag for each Kentucky soldier who has died during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Healing Field was officially dedicated last November, but straight-line winds during a storm June 9 leveled some and damaged all of its flag poles.

“I remember coming home from Girl State,” Pam Rice, past-president of the Auxiliary, told the crowd. “When I turned off of 127, tears began rolling. I didn’t understand how such a sacred place could be destroyed.

“But even though I didn’t understand why, God knew exactly what he was doing that day.”

Through hard work collecting donations and organizing fundraisers, the Auxiliary raised all the money needed to fully repair and even improve the Healing Field.

“A storm literally tore this place apart,” said Ted Austin, commander of the American Legion Department of Kentucky, while addressing the crowd during the ceremony. “(The Auxiliary) could have given up, but that thought never crossed their minds.”

Austin addressed the families with fallen loved ones who were in attendance.

“I hope you can know we do share your grief,” he said. “We hope this can help with the healing process.”

Austin vowed that those honored at the Healing Field and their service to their country would not be forgotten.

“We will not forget,” he said. “The Healing Field will be a constant reminder for us and for generations to come.”

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com