Keeping memories alive

  • Written by Joe Boyle

cong. lipinski photo 5-31

                                                                     Photo by Joe Boyle

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) addresses the crowd that gathered for the Memorial Day Recognition Ceremony at the Veterans Monument Monday in Oak Lawn.


A couple of veterans from World War II and the Korean War were joined by soldiers who served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Members of Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220 held its annual Memorial Day Recognition Ceremony Monday morning at the Village Green and Veterans Memorial in Oak Lawn. Commander Roy Johnson mentioned the fact that the ceremony was represented by veterans that have crossed several generations.

“We must remember what these men and women have done and those who are not here,” Johnson said. “Especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) echoed those sentiments as he reminded the large crowd that while they may be enjoying this day with friends and with barbecues, they should remember what Memorial Day is about.

“Today, Memorial Day, we remember those who have served our country,” Lipinski said. “This year alone, 14 servicemen have been killed in the line of duty. Another 75 have died in training. Some of our veterans have committed suicide. We have to care for them who have been out there and serving our nation. I also want to thank our first responders who put their lives on the line every day. We need to thank the servicemen and we should welcome them home when they come home.”

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said the origin of Memorial Day dates back to the Civil War when women from the South began decorating the graves of the dead soldiers. But they also began to decorate the graves of Yankee soldiers they encountered.

“We came together as a nation as women from the North said if women from the South can do this, we can recognize the veterans’ graves, too,” Bury said.

Many of the speakers and residents in attendance can elude to family members and friends they know who have served. Oak Lawn Village Clerk Jane Quinlan mentioned that she had 10 uncles who have served in the U.S. military.

Oak Lawn Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), who also serves as the local commander of the Disabled American Veterans, reminded the crowd that this is the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day.

“It’s unfortunate, but to be expected, that men and women will still have to continue to serve in the future,” said Vorderer, a Vietnam Army veteran and a retired member of the Oak Lawn Police Department.

“No other nation has sacrificed more than ours,” Johnson said. “We are fortunate to live in a country worth dying for. Today, we pay tribute to these patriots who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. This Memorial Day we should remember them. We need to educate every era of the importance of Memorial Day. Veterans who come back deserve an opportunity of employment and a place to live.”

Peg McClanahan, the longtime pastor of Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ in Oak Lawn, said the opening and concluding prayers for the ceremony. McClanahan will be retiring this Sunday after serving Pilgrim Faith for over 23 years.

A brief ceremony was held following the Memorial Day event at the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker nearby at 95th and Cook Avenue. The plaque and flowers that were beginning to bloom were created by the Oak Lawn Garden Club, who also plant and care for the flowers that surround the Oak Lawn Library next door.

Julie Barker, who came up with idea of the Blue Star Highway marker, placed a wreath at the foot of the monument. Quinlan thanked the members of the Garden Club for their efforts to remember and honor the U.S. Armed Forces.

Vorderer said the nation may go through periods of adversity and unrest, but the role of veterans remains constant.

“You can be against the war, you can be against the president, but what the veterans do is something we can all agree on. We all can support what the veterans do for us,” Vorderer said.