Sunday, June 4, 2017 –
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The songs of the Armed Forces filled the air, as the sound of feet hitting the ground in unison echoed through the streets. Onlookers filled the sidewalks cheering and thanking service members for their service; also there, quietly weeping with both sorrow and joy, were the Gold Star Families remembering their loved ones that they lost, and also in awe of the support they received.
U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco Jr., Commanding General, 85th Support Command, said it is for those Gold Star Families that he takes part in Memorial Day ceremonies each year.
Gold Star Families are the families of service members who lost their lives, during their service, in defense of the nation.
“We honor our Gold Star Families who would give anything to have one more moment with the their loved ones,” said Maiocco. “But they can surely stand proud and gather strength knowing that (their service member’s) service was not in vain, but it was service towards the betterment of our nation and our people.”
Maiocco and Command Sgt. Maj. Vernon I. Perry III, Command Sergeant Major, 85th Support Command, participated in a weekend of Memorial Day commemorations where they spoke with Gold Star Families and thanked them for the service of their loved ones, as well as the sacrifice that the families made.
Maiocco and Perry participated in several key events in Chicago: a breakfast to honor the Gold Star Families, a wreath laying ceremony in honor of those who have served and continue to serve, and ended the commemoration at Chicago’s Memorial Day parade on State Street.
One of the Gold Star Families honored in Chicago was the family of Pfc. Tyler Iubelt who served with 1st Calvary Sustainment Brigade. His wife Shelby Iubelt and mother Charlotte Loquasto were recognized during the Wreath Laying ceremony at the Richard J. Daley Plaza on May 27, 2017.
Iubelt was killed in Afghanistan on November 12, 2016. Six months later his family feels the pain of not having him around, but were lost in awe by the amount of support and love they were shown at the ceremony and parade.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” explained Loquasto. “It is a mind blowing, loving experience. It fills me with honor from start to finish. It’s a beautifully organized event and appreciated by people like us.”
While this was the third and final time Maiocco attended events in the Chicago-land area; it was the first time for Perry. Perry said this experience was amazing, showing him exactly what Memorial Day and the sacrifice of the Gold Star Families means to the area he serves as an Army Reserve Soldier.
“Whether it’s small town America or a large city of millions, the support throughout the communities seems to be extraordinary,” said Perry. “Many people may not know what a Gold Star Family is, but through these Memorial Day celebrations, they learn what the Gold Star Family has lost and how important they are to our community.”
Maiocco and Perry both believe the Gold Star Families carry a burden and paid a price that few can understand.
Maiocco and Perry also attended a Memorial Day commemoration in the Village of Norridge, Illinois the following day, May 28, 2017. Maiocco was the keynote speaker. He and Perry met with Gold Star Families and retired service members there before and after the service.
One prior service member they met was retired sergeant Josephine Pekara. Pekara served in World War II in the Women’s Army Corps in the motor pool and as a telephone operator. Pekara also jumped out of a few planes and ended up keeping her parachute, which she later fashioned into her wedding dress.
“We celebrate the life of freedom we have as Americans,” said Maiocco. “Valiantly provided to us by so many members over the generations during times of national and international conflict.”
The 85th Support Command, based in Arlington Heights, is a local Army Reserve unit for communities like Norridge and the Village of Arlington Heights. Because of that, Maiocco spoke to the communities and expressed appreciation and shared why their support for their local Soldiers is so critical.
“More than 300-thousand Army Reserve Soldiers have mobilized and deployed since September 11, 2001,” explained Maiocco. “Many of those Army Reserve Soldiers, who hold full-time civilian employment, are deployed overseas or securing the homeland, as the most capable, combat-ready and lethal federal reserve force in the history of the nation.”
On Monday, May 29, 2017, Maiocco and Perry attended the Memorial Day parade and ceremony in the Village of Arlington Heights.
Maiocco participated as the Grand Marshal of his final parade in this community. He and Perry rode in the back of a restored World War II-style jeep and thanked the sea of people who turned out to remember the lives of servicemen and women lost for the nation’s freedoms.
“What surprised me was the number of young children standing out there watching the parade,” said Perry. “It was a very humbling experience for myself to see the large outpouring of support from the communities.”
Maiocco was recognized at the ceremony, by the Village of Arlington Heights, for his service to the community. Maiocco received a plaque from the Village Mayor, Mayor Thomas Hayes, who also served in the 85th Support Command when it was a Training Division.
“We very much appreciate the team approach here in Arlington Heights, and the reservists at (the Arlington Heights Reserve Center) are very much a part of our big team increasing the quality of life,” said Hayes. “It’s great that our reservists can filter into our community and intermingle with the residents of our town. They always display their patriotism, citizenship, and everything they represent to our country and our community.”
This last Memorial Day weekend for Maiocco coincides with the 85th Support Command’s centennial anniversary of the Custer Division when it was activated on August 5, 1917 for World War I.