Elwood, Ill., remembers troops' sacrifices

May 25, 2009 (ELWOOD, Ill.) More than 20,000 men and women from all branches of service are buried at Lincoln Cemetery. It is located in Elwood, about 50 miles outside of Chicago.

In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln enacted a law authorizing national cemeteries. The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood was dedicated in 1999. Since then, more than 20,000 servicemen and women have been buried there. The cemetery hosted its 10 Memorial Day service Monday.

Veterans of all wars were honored at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

"We remember with gratitude those who gave their last full measure of devotion. The freedoms we enjoy are a debt none of us can repay," said Rev. Brad Baker, Cathedral of St. Raymond.

The service honored veterans in song, word and action, including a missing man formation fly over from the Gray Hawk Squadron out of Poplar Grove.

It was a service that touched the older participants as well as some of the children. Two students from Elwood read their essays "What Does Memorial Day Mean to Me."

"Knowing the feeling of being left without a uncle hurt but I couldn't imagine what it would be like for a husband or wife losing one another," said Dominique Spann, Elwood Consolidated Grade School.

"Veterans of the war of today, tomorrow and the past deserve to be remembered. Freedom isn't free. Somebody paid for it. That somebody was our veterans," said Johnae McCaskill, Consolidated Grade School.

The keynote address came from the state's new director of veteran affairs, himself a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a guardsman.

"To those of you who have lost a comrade or loved one, while you certainly shed your tears silently at times, know that you don't shed them alone, but the freedom they fought for lasts longer," said Daniel Grant, Illinois Department of Veterans affairs director.

Among those who attended Monday's service, several families who have recently lost a loved one. They are the Gold Star Families who remember the sacrifice of veterans everyday.

Each weekday there are 12 funerals at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. There were 2,200 buried last year.

Monday, at the service, Senator Roland Burris and Congresswomen Debbie Halverson spoke about importance of serving returning veterans.

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