Fallen soliders honored at Memorial Day events

May 28, 2011 (CHICAGO)

On Saturday, he joined in as the city paused to remember those who've made the ultimate sacrifice and died serving our country. Chicago not only honored the service-members who had given their lives in defense of our country, but also celebrated freedom.

"As of this month, over 232 service members from Illinois have laid down their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Gen. Raymond Odierno, Commander in Chief, U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Many gathered at Daley Plaza early Saturday to acknowledge those who have died in defense of our country. An emotional Emanuel expressed his gratitude: "They have given something to their country. On behalf of the people of the City of Chicago, thank you."

Before the mayor took part in the traditional wreath laying, he presented mementos of respect to the Gold Star Families, made up of those who have lost a loved one to war. Gretchen Catherwood lost her 19-year-old son Marine Lance Cpl. Alec Catherwood last year in Afghanistan. "It's a wonderful day that people realize that people have actually given their lives for this for us to be here today," Gretchen Catherwood said.

On Saturday afternoon, celebration replaced the day's more solemn dedications at Chicago's Memorial Day Parade. Thousands of people lined the route on State Street for the event.

"Very important to remember everybody for the freedom of this country," said parade-goer Jedda Malik.

"We go to the Aurora parade every year. We'll be there on Monday, but we decided to come to Chicago," said parade-goer Dan Retch.

Crowds enjoyed the dozens of military marching bands and floats -- including one by ABC7 -- in the annual event.

"It's a good thing for the country because it tells you about the sacrifices the veterans have made, the soldiers have made, to make you feel secure in your own place," said parade-goer Rajad Bashine.

Memorial Day was first marked in 1868 when it was known as Decoration Day. This year's parade was dedicated to honoring our cadets. "It's a great way to honor your country and a way to protect it," said Military Cadet Michael Sierra.

During the parade, new recruits representing many branches of service were sworn in.The Chicago parade is now considered one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the nation. Memorial Day is officially on May 30.

ABC7's own Ravi Baichwal and Stacey Baca host the parade, which will be broadcast Sunday at 4 p.m. on ABC7 and will be available later Sunday on-demand at ABC7Chicago.com.

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