In communities, towns, and cities all over this nation, Americans gathered on Memorial Day to recognize and to show their appreciation to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. In the greater Chicago area alone, there are more than 425,000 veterans and more than 2 million people in Illinois who are members of a military family.
So it was in Lake Bluff where many gathered at the Gazebo on the Village Green for what was another inspiring Memorial Day Ceremony.
As I walked from my Lake Bluff home to the site of the ceremony, having done so every year since moving to Lake Bluff in 1972, fresh in my mind was an earlier experience in May that made Lake Bluff’s Memorial Day 2012 an even more memorable occasion for me.
It was during the week of May 14 that a trip to the Washington, D.C. area made it possible to visit the World War II, Korean and Vietnam war memorials. As I strolled with reverence past all three memorial, stopping to observe each one in detail while reading facts about each war, visually imprinted in my mind were the lives of so many individuals who had died defending this nation. Many of those who died were so very young. They were men and women who had so much life to experience and who never came back home to their loved ones to accomplish their goals or to find their special place in life’s journey.
These thoughts remained with me as Lake Bluff’s Memorial Day Ceremony unfolded under the sponsorship of the American Legion Lake Bluff Post 510, David Cimarrusti, Commander.
I was pleased to see so many children in attendance with their parents, for the young must be taught the value of honor, loyalty and sacrifice to their nation.
As a clarinet player now and throughout my high school school and college years, often my attention was centered on the Lake Forest High School Band under the direction of conductor Janene Kessler, as I listened to the excellence of the music being performed. I couldn’t help but notice how young the high school musicians looked and hoped that they too would be inspired by the morning’s events. Many who died fighting for their country were not much older than the Lake Forest High School Band musicians.
My concern about how love of country was being instilled in young people was somewhat quelled as I observed the raising of “Old Glory” by Lake Bluff Scout Troop 42 under it leader, Mike Fries. There was no doubt in my mind that these young boys were being nurtured by their leader to believe in the goodness of their country and the need to defend its principles as set forth by the Founding Fathers in our Constitution.
Much of my attention was directed to the Lake Bluff veterans who were sitting in chairs on the Village Green looking spiffy and wearing proudly their American Legion Lake Bluff Post 510 hats displaying their medals. All had stories to tell me. How I wish I would have had the time to listen to each one of their eager voices.
Three of the veterans introduced themselves to me as “The Three Stooges”, but stooges they were not: Stuart Karon, Korean War; Chester Vasofsky, WW II; and Richard Dornbush, Korean War.
Thereafter I approached a group of five veterans who were enjoying the company of one another. All were eager to be photographed and all had stories to tell me. Jack Brumn, former business manager at Lake Forest High School, was especially eager to relate how he served in the Navy on Ship 219 in the South Pacific during WW II.
The other four vets included Herb Richards, Korean; Francis Avellone, WW II, Korean, and Vietnam; Bill Dobbs, WW II; and Albert Stroh, WW II, Korean and Vietnam.
In asking Francis Avellone how it came to be that he had served in three wars, his answer: ” I just stayed in the service.” Albert Stroh likewise served in WW II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
According to the Necrology read by State Senator Susan Garret and State Representative Karen May, four Lake Bluffers died in the Civil War; two in WW I; five in WW II; one in Korea; and three in Vietnam.
Emotional-filled moments during the Memorial Service came during the reading of “In Flanders Field” by Esther Fetherolf, a long-time Lake Bluff resident, whose recitation was in memory of a loved one who fought in WW I for the British.
Shortly after Esther began her recitation, she seemed to freeze in place, at which time she uttered, “I can’t go on.” After moments of hesitation, Esther continue onward and was able to complete the poem with only one more slight pause to compose herself near end of the poem.
The guest speaker, Captain Eric Johnson, US Navy, didn’t disappoint as he waxed eloquently about Abraham Lincoln and then went on to salute all the brave men and women who have fought and died having stepped up to serve their nation out of duty, responsibility, commitment and sacrifice since the Civil War 140 years ago.
As in past years, the Marine Air Control Group 48 Firing Detail NCOIC under the direction of Gy Sgt. Willie Benson, USMC performed a “Salute to Fallen Comrades” This is always an impressive and a spine-chilling experience for me.
There is more to tell about Lake Bluff’s inspiring Memorial Day ceremony, but its time to conclude my musings.
Thanks must be given to Lake Bluff Post 510 for its commander, David Cimarrusti, and to all who are members of Post 510. 1,000 WW II vets are dying each and every day who died fighting a war that was to end all wars.
Tom Tincher, a proud Korean War veteran and a member of Post 510, who once again videotaped Lake Bluff’s Memorial Day Ceremony for Channel 19 as he has done so for many years, provided me with the following facts about Post 510.
“For over 90 years Members of American Legion Lake Bluff Post 510 have followed their vision for a strong America and support for veterans. Among the Post’s current community activities are:
Memorial Day: Post 510 sponsored ceremony on the Village Green in Lake Bluff. Honors local men and women who died in the service of their country.
Grave Decoration: Post 510 supplies flags to Ascension Cemetery to be used to mark veteran’s graves and the reflecting pond on Memorial Day.
Poppy Day: Post 510 and community volunteers collect donations to support activities at the Veterans Administration facility in North Chicago./
Veterans Day: Post 510 sponsored ceremony on the Village Green in Lake Bluff. Honors local men and women who served their country in the military.
4th of July Parade: Former producer and current partner, Post 510 provides flags, banners, signage and publicity plus traffic and parade participant support and a parade entry to promote community interaction.
Veteran’s Assistance: Post 510 donates emergency assistance to service families. Included rent, food, clothing, utilities and cash to “Gifts to the Yanks who Gave”, the VA for infirm veterans and “Toys for Tots”.
Boy’s State – Girl’s State: Post 510 supports this program intended to provide citizenship training for Lake Forest High School students who have successfully completed their junior class year.
School Leadership Award: Post 510 sponsored peer selection program honoring Lake Bluff Middle School graduating students who have demonstrated leadership qualities to their fellow students.
Vocational Award: Post 510 recognizes and supports public health and safety vocational education for a Lake Forest High School graduate.”
This quote by President James A. Garfield rings true about the importance of Memorial Day that the American people must never forget, even though Memorial Day signals the start of the summer season for many: “For love of country they accepted death.”
It is also fitting to remember the quotation I saw when viewing the Korean War Memorial a few weeks ago: “Freedom is not free.”