A crowd of about 200 people gathered in Fountain Square on May 26 to honor servicemen and – women: those who have died, living veterans and those in active service.
“We honor the fallen,” said Greg Lisinski, past commander of American Legion Post 42. “Because of their sacrifice, we stand in freedom and can worship as we want and argue about whatever we want.”
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, a veteran of the Air Force, thanked the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion “for annually reminding us of the importance of this day. … Within the last 18 months we’ve had 1,000 people die in action. [That] reminds us of how fragile our democracy is and how important their service is.”
Mr. Suffredin read from the speech that Oliver Wendell Holmes gave on Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, New Hampshire, about the value of the holiday: “So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up, we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. …”
Mr. Suffredin continued “There are two things we need to do:” “Advocate for quality services and adequate pay for those on active duty and [advocate] to get services for our fellow veterans.”
Echoing that idea, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “Evanston is a hotbed of political activity, and we ought to be wonderful advocates for our veterans – for adequate pay and adequate services. We should start writing letters and making phone calls.”
Memorial Day, said Mayor Tisdahl, is the time to “pay tribute to Americans, to the bravest men and women. They put their futures on the line. As a nation and as a City we are forever grateful. … Evanston gathers every year at Fountain Square to show we have not forgotten. Over 40 million have served; one million have died. We thank you.”
Rickover Naval Academy High School presented the colors and performed the rifle salute. The Evanston Police Color Guard retired the colors. Henry Revis Jr. led the singing of the national anthem.
Representatives of veterans groups – Commander James Brusek of American Legion Post 42, Commander Charles Spivey of Snell V.F.W. Post 7186 and Commander Hal Shanafield of VietNow, North Suburban Chapter – gave reflections on Memorial Day.
The laying of wreaths by veterans’ groups and auxiliaries followed the honor roll of recently deceased veterans. Evan Foley of Evanston Boy Scout Troop 3 played taps, and then Chaplain John Russo of American Legion Post 42 gave the closing invocation.