Aerial footage provided by Aeropex Media.
AMESBURY (CBS) – In an Amesbury field — far away from any Memorial Day parade or uniformed bugler playing taps — young Della and Teddy Hildt got a lesson in sacrifice and freedom.
“We thought it was important to show our kids what today is really about,” says their father Michael.
They were among many braving a steady drizzle to venture into a soggy sea of white ribbons — twenty rows deep — each featuring a name in red marker — one for each of the more than 6900 American service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9-11.
Each ribbon includes a name, the date they died, and their number in the grim count.
It sits in the shadow of the house where artist Ellen Rogers grew up.
“Just reading a number doesn’t register emotionally,” Rogers says. “But when you see this, you get a better impression of what that number really means.”
She actually got the idea from a poem written by her Vietnam Vet uncle, and it inspired her to turn her old Amesbury yard into a Memorial Day tribute to the fallen of this century — all 6,914 of them.
“If you keep saying the names and seeing the names,” says visitor Kim Hebert, “they’ll never be gone. They’ll always be in your heart.”
Indeed, some visitors added faces to the names — with photos and buttons.
One ex-Army Ranger hunted down his buddy Andrew Nicol — killed while their unit was on a special ops mission in Iraq’s Kandahar Province back in 2010.
It stirred emotions he preferred not to share.
“It’s these people who have sacrificed for us to have the lives we do,” says Rogers, deflecting praise for the exhibit — even as she gestured toward it. “It’s their families who have sacrificed — and we need to remember them.”
Michael Hildt had his son and daughter both find their birthdays — only to discover that a soldier had died on each one.
“While that day might be happy for us,” Hildt tells his children, “it is very sad for some other family.”
As the Hildt’s headed for their car, Mom and Dad believed the lesson will stick.
“To have a visual definition of the sacrifice and loss is very powerful,” says Tara Hildt. “It really helps.”
Artist Rogers hopes her field of names helps at all levels.
“No matter where you are politically — no one wants to lose more lives,” she says.
The display will remain on West Winkley Street in Amesbury at least through the coming weekend.