The weekend before Memorial Day is seen as the traditional kick off to the summer, and the holiday is set aside to remember those who have fallen fighting for a America. Chicagoans turned out in droves to salute them.
For many people, Memorial Day means an extra day off work and a chance to enjoy barbecue. For those in the military or families touched by the sacrifice of war, the day means much more.
Saturday's parade participants marched to celebrate the history of their country and those who have sacrificed to defend it.
"It's really awesome. We're enjoying it and having a good time," said Susi Ewing, who attended the parade.
One father, Andrew Raleigh, told ABC7 Chicago he went to the parade with his daughter, Lauren, because he wanted her to see real heroes in person.
"A lot of these people we are celebrating put their lives on the line for the opportunity of us to have the freedom we share today," he said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. led Chicago area veterans groups down State Street Saturday while they honored the men and women who have served and in the armed forces.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and others laid a wreath at the eternal flame to acknowledge those who gave up their lives so other Americans could live theirs. The Patriquins, for example, are now a Gold Star family after losing their son, Travis, in Iraq in 2006.
"When a 2-year-old takes you to a picture and says, 'That's my daddy,' and that's all he has of his daddy, we will deal with this every year, every Memorial Day for the rest of our lives," said Connie Patriquin, mother of the fallen serviceman.
Others attending the ceremony shared the sacrifices of war in a different way.
"[Before] you wouldn't see a black man running around with a pair of paratroopers wings on. I have a lot of black brothers out there that got wings," said Vietnam War veteran Lloyd Banks.
While Banks remembered the commitment of those before him, Willard Kenebrew reflected on yet another Memorial Day spent with American soldiers in Iraq.
"It's not the politicians war," he said.
For others, Saturday was reserved for just being a part of the American tradition.
"I feel it is part of my duty as a resident of this nation to be involved in stuff like this," said Anna Wu, who attended Saturday's parade.
So far this year, 29 Illinois residents have lost their lives in the War on Terror in either Afghanistan or Iraq, which is one reason the city remains committed to celebrating and honoring the men and women of the military.