The traditions continued – songs, prayers, speeches, reflections, wreaths, and salutes – but for many there was a new feeling, as a crowd of about 250 gathered Monday at Fountain Square for Memorial Day ceremonies.
Noting that last year’s Memorial Day ceremony was canceled and that planning for this year’s ceremony was uncertain because of revised COVID-19 protocols, emcee Greg Lisinski of American Legion Post 42 said the crowd and the ceremony gave “a sense of normalcy. Hopefully, it will seem more normal as we go along.”
“The Star-Spangled Banner” was a sing-along, because Henry Revis Jr., who for years performed the national anthem, had been taken ill. In her invocation, Chaplain Christine Chevlin Candalario asked a blessing “for their continual struggle to save our country … and for their sacrifice.”
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin recounted the number of U.S. citizens in the armed services
“This is an extremely important ceremony of remembrance,” said Mayor Daniel Biss. “We remember those who gave a genuinely unthinkable sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy and maybe talk about too rarely. … Think about how little is asked of the rest of us. … That which they gave obligates us to do what we can to support that sense of justice.”
Commander Wilfredo Candelario of American Legion Post 42 spoke of the steep toll of war. “The decisions that lead to war are the decisions of the policy-makers, not the soldiers.” He quoted General William Tecumseh Sherman: “It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”
Continuing, Cmdr. Candelario said, “War is not always the best policy but the heroes it produces are the best.”
Commander Charles Spivey gave a brief history of the founding of Technical Sergeant William B. Snell VFW Post 7186. Sgt. Snell of Evanston enlisted in the army in 1941 and was killed in action in 1943, the first Black soldier from Evanston to die in North Africa during World War II.
The post celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.
Hal Shanafield of Viet Now thanked the audience for “taking the time to remember those who have made the supreme sacrifice.”
Gerri Sizemore of the Snell Post Auxiliary honored Phoebe Bradford and Mr. Suffredin for their contributions to the post.
After the laying of wreaths, a 21-gun salute, and “Taps” played by Sam Tannen, Mr. Lisinski called a roll of wars and conflicts beginning with World War II to recognize veterans in attendance. Chaplain Kenneth Doss gave the closing invocation. The crowd sang “God Bless America,” and after talking in groups and taking photographs, dispersed quietly into downtown and beyond.