"If you love your freedom, if you like to vote, if you appreciate your freedom of speech, thank a veteran," said U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk.
The ceremony was a wonderful way to start a day that was meant for remembering those who have fought for American freedom. Members of the Arlington Heights community also enjoyed a parade paying tribute to men and women of the military.
"I love the downtown area, the feel of being downtown, and bringing my kids here and sharing Memorial Day with them to help them understand what Memorial Day is all about," said parade attendee Dawn Suarez.
"The kids like the fire trucks and ambulances and all the loud stuff and the big bands," said Kevin Menzies, who also attended the parade.
On a day filled with parades and barbecue, the town came out to the parade to honor war veterans like Cornelius Vanderwiel and all those who have fought for the spirit of their country.
"Remembering all the fellows I lost all through the years, that's basically what it is," the veteran told ABC7 Chicago.
Amid the marching bands and parade watchers, there was patriotism and gratitude as many thoughts aren't far from those still fighting for freedom.
"I am married now. I grew up in Japan and married an American that was raised in Texas, and I moved here two years ago. I just wanted to have a little feeling about [the] American spirit," said parade watcher Asami Kboyashi-Solomon.
"It's nice that we have people who are brave enough to go out and fight and do the things we need to do to preserve our freedom here in the United States, and then, to have a day when we can celebrate that, I think it's wonderful," parade attendee Mark Johnson said.
The ceremony concluded late Monday morning. Afterwards, the community honored all war veterans by announcing the renovation of the town's oldest park. The groundbreaking for the park symbolized the town's commitment to the men and women who guard freedom.
"It's a place where people can remember those who have served, but it also a place where families get together because families serve as well," said Park Renovation Chairman Mark Walker.
That's something that can be celebrated everyday.
Abraham Lincoln National CemeteryThe ninth Memorial Day service at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery remembers Americans lost in service to this country. The service honors all fallen service men and women from all branches of all wars...and all branches of service. Many of those in attendance have buried a loved one at the cemetery. More than 17,000 are buried there with more than 1,000 internments since the beginning of the year. The Lowells buried their son last summer. On June 2, 2007, Army Specialist Jacob Lowell was killed in Afghanistan. His Humvee was ambushed. He grew up in New Lenox and was a standout football player at Lincolnway Central High School. Since his death, his parents have lived through what would have been Jacob Lowell's 23rd birthday, and now, Memorial Day without their son. "It's hard on the holidays. It's for all the guys who lost their lives in action today. That's what today is for. It's good to see so many people that care," said father Raymond Lowell. For the Lowells and the other families there Monday, they know that Taps signals a goodbye to a loved one. As the lyrics go, "Thanks and praise for our days, as we go this we know God is near." Cost of Freedom exhibit in Schaumburg It was the final day for the Cost of Freedom exhibit in Schaumburg. A color guard ceremony was planned at the display in Alexian Field Monday night. The traveling exhibit is a replica of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall. It salutes war veterans from Vietnam, World War II, the Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The exhibit also includes tributes to public safety officers who've died in the line of duty. It is 20 percent smaller than the wall in Washington. But the traveling wall has the same big effect on veterans like Lee Hagan. He lost his best friend in Vietnam, and found Phil Emerson's name like he's done many times before in D.C. "I'm always afraid to go to the wall because it brings back a lot of memories, you know. But I also think it does a lot of good for my healing," said Hagan. It replicates the pain and hardship, the grief and honor, not only for Vietnam vets, but it also pays tribute to our soldiers lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts. On this Memorial Day, 85-year-old Robert Cummings, a veteran of World War II who flew bombing missions in the Battle of the Bulge, was there to remember his grandson, Ryan, killed in Iraq two years ago. "So I guess it's worth it. We're still here, we're free. We wonder about our leadership sometimes, if they did the right thing, but we don't know," said Cummings. The 58,000-plus names on the wall are listed in a circle of sorts, starting with the beginning of the war in 1955 in the center, the names go on, all the way down the side of the wall. When they pick up again back at the beginning, it is 1968. And it ends, back in the center, with the end of the war in 1975. Ten-year-old Kijana Jeremiah etched the name of her grandfather, killed in Vietnam. "Once I saw his name on the wall, I started crying, once I saw the whole wall with all those names on it, I already had tears in my eyes," said Kijana.
Other Memorial Day activities:
A special Memorial Day march and Mass honored fallen members of Chicago's Fire Department.Uniformed firefighters marched from Blue Island Avenue up Roosevelt Road to Holy Family Church Monday morning. People paid their respects along the route as the procession made its way to the Mass. It was the 76th annual Memorial Day Mass to be celebrated by the department. Members of Firemen's American Legion Post 667 provided a color guard. Following the Mass, there was a flag raising and roll call of firefighters who have died in the past year. ----- Several veterans took part in a parade that launched Memorial Day services at Rosehill Cemetery on the city's North Side. Every Memorial Day weekend, the cemetery honors veterans with the Avenue of the Flags. The flags were donated by the families and friends of departed veterans of the armed forces of the United States. ----- Veterans of the Vietnam and Iraq wars honored fallen troops in downtown Chicago. And some spoke out against the conflict in the Mideast. A special Memorial Day display of boots was set up Monday at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial at Wacker and Wabash. Each pair represented a fallen soldier from Illinois. Members of the groups Vietnam Veterans against the War and Iraq Veterans Against the War put together the special memorial. They also used the day as an opportunity to testify about the horrors of war. They called for all troops to be brought home. ----- Chicago's oldest so-called "do it yourself parade" celebrated 45 years of tradition. The Woogams Memorial Day Parade is a parade in which everyone marches and no one watches. Woogams stands for Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society. It was started by Al Weisman and his son in 1963. With a few friends and a flag, they got a parade going. Now parade organizers say more than 1,000 people march every year to kick off the unofficial start to summer. ----- Chicago's Italian-American community gathered to honor America's military heroes Monday. The ceremony was organized by the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club. Visitors spent time checking out a monument to veterans of American wars and they listened to the guest of honor, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda. "We are gathered here because of that flag, because of this nation and because of what represented our country for years - the military. We have the greatest military in the world," he said. The organization says Italian Americans formed the largest ethnic group in America's armed forces during World War II.