Saturday's Memorial Day Parade brought with it the kind of greeting Julius Jackson -- and others like him -- should receive every day of the year.
"It's very difficult to find the words for this elated feeling," said Lt. Col. Julius Jackson of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Jackson is among the countless heroes past and present being honored this weekend. At Daley Plaza, where an eternal flame burns, there was eternal gratitude Saturday to the families of men and women killed in combat.
"It is our duty to keep these men and women who have served in our hearts and prayers daily," Chicago's Mayor Daley said.
"Every time I come out, it reminds me of everything I'm grateful for. To be American and living in the best city in the world," said Staff Sgt. Marcus Brown on the U.S. Army.
Brown, who is back from a tour of duty in Iraq, brought his son Mackai to the parade on State Street. Together, they watched service members past, present and future bask in the warmth of gratitude.
"It's important for my son to see that some people did sacrifice for him to have freedoms he will have and that he enjoys today," said Brown.
The sacrifice is not small. The time period is not distant. Four thousand two hundred ninety-five military men and women have been killed in Iraq and 686 in Afghanistan. Both conflicts have claimed the lives 187 Illinoisans.
ABC7 Chicago asked Lt. Colonel Jackson what he thought was the best way to honor the sacrifices of so many.
"Serve America, serve family and youngsters should get an education. Education is knowledge," he said.
Also in observance of Memorial Day, Navy Pier was scheduled to set its fireworks to music Saturday at 10 p.m.