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Healing field marks anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks



Published: Sun, September 10, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The tribute stretches over 10 acres.

MARIA STEIN, Ohio (AP) -- Volunteers placed thousands of American flags in a field to pay tribute to soldiers, firefighters and others on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

By Saturday morning, more than 2,600 flags had been unfurled atop 8-foot-high flagpoles over 10 acres at the Maria Stein Spiritual Center, about 60 miles north of Dayton. In addition, 500 flags lined a two-mile stretch of highway leading to what is being called the "healing field."

"It's really breathtaking," said Jennifer Miller, who spearheaded the effort.

Miller, 28, got involved after the idea was raised during an August 2005 meeting of a local military support group.

Miller attended the meeting after her husband, Michael, was deployed to Afghanistan with his Army Reserve unit. Miller had recently given birth to a boy, the couple's first child.

"I was having a really hard time dealing with my husband being gone," she said.

Miller thought it would be a great idea to buy a flag for her husband, who is still in Afghanistan. Then she got caught up in the whole project and took the lead.

"It started out just being a way to honor my husband," she said. "As I started doing it, it was a way to honor my father-in-law, who was in Vietnam. This means so much to him."

The healing field is patterned after similar efforts around the country.

Response

Deb Dembowski, 47, of nearby Coldwater, said the field is beautiful.

"When you see all these flags, you just get real quiet and reflective," said Dembowski, who has a 19-year-old son finishing up Marine training in California and is expected to be deployed to Iraq by the end of the year.

The parents of Army Reserve Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin, the only U.S. soldier listed as missing in Iraq, also made an appearance at the field Saturday, Miller said. Maupin, of Batavia in southwest Ohio, has been missing since 2004, when his fuel truck convoy was ambushed by insurgents west of Baghdad after leaving camp.

Keith and Carolyn Maupin continue to hold out hope that their son will be found.

People who want to honor a soldier, a veteran, a firefighter or others paid $30 apiece to buy a flag and were encouraged to decorate them with remembrances. The proceeds will go to local firefighters, police and others who helped with the project.

When the event ends Tuesday, the owners will be given the flags to take home.




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