Today is the day that we recognize and show our appreciation to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and the freedoms we enjoy.
We should all take a moment today to pray for those that have served and are serving our nation. Many families have lost loved ones and many of our military men and women who have survived face countless struggles and challenges for the rest of their lives. There are more than 425,000 veterans in the greater Chicago area alone, and more than 2 million people in Illinois who are members of a military family.
Lake Bluff will conduct its own Memorial Day service up at the Village Green starting at 9 a.m. It is sure to be a stirring and heartfelt experience, as each Memorial Day service has been since moving to Lake Bluff in 1972.
Whether to attend Lake Bluff's Memorial Day remembrance services has never been questioned by me. It is the least I can do to honor all of our local heroes whose sacrifice and service to country deserve our appreciation and gratitude, not only only Memorial Day but all year around.
Fresh in my mind is a trip that prompted early thoughts of Memorial Day. It was during the week of May 14 that I visited a friend who moved in the last year to Vienna, Va., not far from Washington, D.C.
As I visited the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials, the lives of so many who had died defending this nation were vividly displayed and visually imprinted in my mind. I walked with reverence with pamphlets in hand, reading facts about the wars and those who had died while involved in the fights. So many of the casualties were so young in age. Men and women who had so much life to experience and who never came back alive to accomplish their goals or to find their special places in life.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial was perhaps the most haunting of all with its 19 statues sculpted to represent an ethnic cross section of America. The faces of the statues looked haunting and gaunt. It seemed that they had so much to tell, but instead they remained silent and ghost-like.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the remembrance wall seemed to stretch on and on. It now holds 58,273 names. Approximately 2,100 of these listed are missing MIA's, POW's, and others. It was comforting to know that school children had visited the memorial in days past. Observed along the length of the memorial were messages and drawings placed their by children.
The newest war memorial is dedicated to World War II. The "War to End All Wars" was long overdue before Congress finally authorized the American Battle Monuments Commissions to establish a World War II Memorial. The construction of the memorial was spearheaded by Senator Bob Dole, a war veteran himself, still representing Kansas as a senator. It was dedicated on May 29, 2004.
As I strolled from one war memorial to another I saw many veterans, many of them in wheelchairs, being pushed by other veterans or perhaps by family members. Perhaps they were remembering their war buddies who were not as fortunate as they were to have returned home safely.
It was evident that for many of the grizzled, aged veterans this would be their last trip to Washington, D.C. It could have even been the first trip for many out of a need to see the memorial that spoke of their service and self sacrifice.
It was also good to see veterans with their grandchildren sitting on benches together in front of the memorials, or hand-in-hand walking along, perhaps relating war experiences to what I hope were eager ears.
For the young must be taught never to forget those who were willing to die to preserve what they enjoy today and take for granted. Hopefully they too might have an inner call to serve their country in future years.
This quote by President James A. Garfield rings true about the importance of remembering our military: "For love of country they accepted death."
It is also fitting to remember this quotation which is part of the Korean War Memorial: "Freedom is not free."