Post 42 Chaplain Christine Candelario and Commander Will Candelario. (Photo by Mike Wojciechowski)

Evanston’s July 4th celebrations always bring out Post 42 of the American Legion, and this year was no exception. Members of Post 42, including some family members, friends and community members assembled at 2 p.m. for a 4th of July Patriotic Walk on the walkways along Central Street, from Green Bay Road to Post 42 in Chandler Park.

The Evanston Fourth of July Association made the difficult decision in March to cancel the annual Fourth of July parade and postpone the Centennial Celebration until next year. In its stead, members of Post 42 decided to organize the Patriotic Walk. The Evanston community was invited to join the march and enjoy refreshments at the Post Clubroom and Patio 42.

Staff Sergeant Mike Wojciechowski, U.S. Army, Retired, brought up the rear of the 4th of July Patriotic Walk. A ten-year member of Post 42, Sgt. Wojciechowski has served on the board of directors and as the junior vice commander for the post.

“I am also the head chef when we have our picnics. It’s pretty amazing, the amount of support that we gain from family and from the community,” said Sgt. Wojciechowski.

Members of Post 42 were joined by family, friends and community members. (Photo by Mike Wojciechowski)

The hot, sunny day, with temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, inspired memories of past 4th of July parades.

“We are here today because we feel that it’s our responsibility, particularly as Evanston’s veterans, to make sure that we are commemorating Independence Day properly and publicly. We’ve been marching here for many years. So when we found out the Evanston 4th of July Association had decided to cancel [the parade], which was understandable, given that they needed the lead time back in March, we decided that we would do our own small event just to make sure that we’re commemorating the 4th of July,” said Post 42 Commander Will Candelario.

Cmdr. Candelario, who lived in Evanston for 20 years, now lives in Chicago with his wife, Christine Candelario.

“We actually met at the American Legion Post, and we were married one year ago today. Today is our first anniversary. She is also a Legionnaire, and she is our Post Chaplain,” said Commander Candelario.

Dan Fleming said he was born and raised in Evanston, but no longer lives here.

“I’m here to celebrate the 4th of July. Most of us are veterans. I did 36 years in the Air Force. The 4th of July parade is for veterans, and we should have it. I understand [it was cancelled] because of COVID, but … I think they made the decision a little too early,” Mr. Fleming told the RoundTable, adding that he participates in the parade every year. “We have a float. We have a live bluegrass band and I drive the vehicle, towing the trailer,” said Mr. Fleming.

Marchers walked on Central Street from Green Bay to Post 42 at Chandler Park. (Photo by Mike Wojciechowski)

John Brinkmann said, “I’m a proud member of the Legion – actually what you would call a Sons of Legionnaire. My father served. It’s a day to celebrate the flag. … The Legion came forward and spoke about having this day where we would stay on the sidewalks – we’re not here to make any political statement. We’re here to show our respect and love of country today.”

In 2019, Post 42 American Legion celebrated its 100th anniversary. At the American Legion Evanston Post 42 100th Year Celebration, then Mayor Stephen Hagerty gave remarks.

“As you all know, Post 42 is much more than a place to listen to some of the finest bluegrass music in the country, or to enjoy a beer on the patio – although it’s a great place to do either of those things.

“Post 42 is a place where service to the community and country comes before self. It’s a place where the principles of democracy, freedom and justice are safeguarded and transmitted to future generations. It’s a place where bonds are formed, memories are preserved, and stories are shared,” he said. “Our march went off very well… We had lots of support shown by folks as they were walking past or driving by. We believe that we did what we set out to do in representing Evanston’s veterans community – making sure that we had a public display on Independence Day showing our support for the United States, for our flag, for our veterans and for the Evanston community,” Commander Candelario told the RoundTable.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.