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On a sunny Memorial Day about 100 persons gathered at Fountain Square to honor veterans, living and dead, remember their sacrifice and extol the freedoms of this country that they guard with their lives.

Reading a statement from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Tania Rodriguez said, “Today, on Memorial Day, we pause to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country. … We remember those who died, and we redouble our commitment to caring for our veterans and military families. Amidst ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, today we pay tribute to the military families who are coping with the true cost of war. … For the families who have lost loved ones, we share their grief and truly appreciate their sacrifice to keep our nation safe. … Today I’d also like to pause and remember the veterans who we’ve lost to suicide. These men and women are casualties of war, and I strongly believe that they should be remembered as such. … As we place an ever-increasing burden on the men and women of our military, we need to increase our commitment to ensuring that they and their families have access to the care and services that they need. … I also would like to honor the growing number of women who have given their lives for their country. Today, the thoughts and prayers of all Americans go out to those who put their lives on the line for this nation.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “Those of us here at Fountain Square know that this is more than a three-day weekend. … One million, one hundred ninety-seven thousand, two hundred thirty-eight persons have died in services since colonial soldiers first took up arms. … Sadly, it is too easy for us to forget the dead and wounded. … Memorial Day precludes our having the luxury of forgetting the honorable dead.”

Noting the names of Evanstonians who served in the armed services, the mayor said downtown is a fitting place for the memorial to veterans and should remain there. “Fountain Square reminds us that our freedom came at a price,” she said

Hal Shanafield of VietNow North Suburban Chapter said “We gather here today not to mourn but to celebrate” the lives of men and women who served this country.” He spoke of the cemeteries abroad where U.S. servicemen and servicewomen are buried. “Our men and women who went abroad went abroad not for selfish reasons but to preserve, and in some cases create, freedom for oppressed people around the world.”

Greg Lisinski, past commander of Evanston American Legion Post 42 and of the 7th District of the Department of Illinois American Legion, acted as master of ceremonies. He said, “When you walk down the street, you never quite know who it is you’re looking at. It may be someone who has lived second-to-second with terror or who has lost a loved one [in the armed services].”

Clifford Washington, commander of Snell VFW Post 42, recognized Evanstonians Mark and Paula Hayes, whose son and stepson, Captain Matthew Freeman, was killed in Afghanistan.

Henry Revis Jr. led the singing of the national anthem and “God Bless America.”

This year’s Memorial Day services concluded with the laying of wreaths at the flagpole dedicated in 1951, when Douglas McArthur visited Evanston. After the recognition of those in the audience who had served at one time in the armed forces, the crowd dispersed into the not-yet-enervating heat to enjoy those closely guarded freedoms.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...