Appreciations for honoring the dead and their families poured in from service members past, present and future at the 58th annual Rosehill Cemetery Memorial Day Parade on Monday.
The Balson family – Pierre, his wife Lenore and 3½-year-old son Sebastien – were on their lawn on West Rosehill Avenue, enjoying the community camaraderie that has been absent since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s great to have him back,” said Pierre Balson. “I love being outside, hanging out with the neighbors. It’s the best part of Memorial Day, everyone talking to each other, enjoying the day. It’s also a beautiful parade, great to see the kids in ROTC. C It’s also cool to see a lot of veterans.
Members of the Edgewater Baptist Church attended, taking advantage of lawn chairs provided by residents of the block for the annual event. Krista Muscat, deacon of the church’s Benevolent Fund, says a contingent from her church has been going there for a decade.
“We love to get out and be with the community,” she said. “It’s a real neighborhood parade in a small town.”
Richard Zaber, the parade’s first onlooker and an army veteran, attended because he was moved by the memorials he had seen on television the night before. His friend, Judith Jakaitis, who lives a few blocks from the parade route, invited him to enjoy the parade.
The parade – which included members of the local Boy Scout troop, dozens of members of Lane Tech High School’s ROTC Warriors Battalion and girls from the American Revolution Culper Ring Agent 355 Chapter – marched from West Rosehill to Clark Street through the majestic limestone entrance. at the cemetery. They marched through aisles lined with 180 American flags, placed with the help of 30 students from ASPIRA Early College High School in Avondale.
Many people followed the parade into the cemetery for a ceremony of gratitude. With temperatures approaching the 90s, many stood in the shade as the wind blew flags in the hands of attendees and across the field. As Reverend Jerome Kowalski said at the invocation: “Every time you see a flag blowing, it indicates the last breath of an American who gave his life so that we could remain the land of the free and the homeland of the brave. ”
A resounding amen came from the crowd.
Marcos Torres, commanding officer of American Legion Sergeant Jason Vazquez Post 939, then addressed the crowd, encouraged by the number of people present to attend the ceremony since the pandemic. For him, every day is Memorial Day.
But after recent mass shootings around the country, he said he wondered: Is this the America these brave men and women died for? Is this the America they believed in?
“Understand that the service does not end with the contract. It’s a lifestyle and ongoing,” he said. “We have a duty and a burden of responsibility to those who have gone before us to serve our community and to be pillars and leaders in our community whether we like it or not, that is who we are. It’s in our DNA, we didn’t choose it.
American Legion Tattler Post 973 2nd District Commander Brent Webb, who served in the Air Force from 2006 to 2012, urged people to get to know Legion posts in their neighborhood.
“The American veteran represents a cross section of every lifestyle in America more perfectly than any other institution in our country,” he told the crowd. “You don’t see the same in Congress, you don’t see it in our communities, no matter how segregated they are. But you see it in the US veteran population.
American veterans are not a monolith, we are individuals who have chosen to serve. And…for all who have served, it is service that continues. We are a community of individuals trying to serve our community, and no one does better than an American veteran.
Northwest Side Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, and North Side Ald. André Vasquez, 40th, was present. Vasquez urged residents to remember those we lost and those who came back with physical and mental trauma. Villegas, chairman of the city council’s veterans caucus, reminded everyone that “freedom doesn’t come free.”
“All of us veterans have taken an oath to defend this country before all enemies, foreign and domestic, and ladies and gentlemen, that oath has no expiry date,” he said.
“When we talk about honoring our soldiers, let’s imagine the day when we achieve what we fought so hard for – a world of peace where we no longer need soldiers,” Vasquez said. “As neighbours, let us be comrades in peace just as our veterans were comrades in arms. Let us commit to that promise on this day and every Memorial Day.
The service, which dates to the 1930s and 1940s, has been hosted by an AMVETS group for 55 years, said Michael Weidman, director of Dignity Memorial Family Service. He said Rosehill Cemetery has a veteran from every conflict America has fought in, including the Revolutionary War. Weidman, who has led the service on behalf of the cemetery for the past six to seven years, said about 1,000 to 1,500 people attend each year. He said he was happy to be able to thank those who did the things he didn’t.
Chicago Light Artillery Battery A closed service firing three times with a Civil War cannon. Former Commander William Kummerow has been part of the ceremony for 34 years. Donning woolen badges as a labor major, he is already looking forward to Veterans Day, when he says people will be wearing uniforms from all the different wars.
“Rosehill Cemetery predates the Civil War by about 14 months,” Weidman said. “We’ve been here for 163 years and from the very beginning the cemetery leaders reserved the best properties for the graves of Civil War veterans, and that was the beginning of our relationship with the veterans.”