Entering the eleventh month of the pandemic, Soldiers from the Army Reserve’s 85th Support Command partnered with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves to honor veterans, safely, at the Vietnam Memorial Wall alongside Chicago’s Riverwalk, November 11, 2020.
“I think we should never pass up an opportunity to stop and recognize the great service of servicemen and women,” said Wayne Messmer, Senior Executive Vice President, Chicago Wolves.
Messmer, who may be best known for his singing of the National Anthem at major Chicago sports teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cubs, shared that his father served and that he had friends that he lost during the Vietnam War.
“My dad was a decorated World War II [Soldier] and every time I see someone in uniform, it reminds me of him and of the sacrifices from the Greatest Generation,” said Messmer. “I also have high school buddies whose names are on that [Vietnam Memorial] wall, so it’s very personal to me.”
Coordination leading up to the event, assisted by the Office of the Chief Public Affairs-Midwest, was filled with continuous changes as planning developed to implement COVID-19 safety precautions, and minimizing participants to a small military audience in an outdoor setting.
The thirty-minute ceremony, led by Messmer, master of ceremonies, began with a presentation of Colors by the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command color guard team and continued with an invocation by U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Taylor Kim; keynote speaker remarks from U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Ernest Litynski, Commanding General of the 85th USARSC, and retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Roger Machut; and closed with a wreath laying presentation.
Additional participants included boats from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Chicago Police and Fire Departments who backdropped the ceremony with immense sprays of water salutes along the Chicago River.
“Today we reflect and honor the courageous men and women who chose to take up the profession of arms to defend and maintain the democratic principles upon which our nation’s freedom depends,” said Litynski. “America stands unique in the world as the only country not founded on race but rather founded on an ideal of freedom and equality. We must never lose sight of that.”
Litynski, who stated that he becomes emotional during Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, had to pause before concluding his remarks as he talked about the service of veterans.
Machut followed remarks after Litynski and shared that his brother’s name, Cpl. Richard R. Machut, can be found on the Vietnam Memorial Wall there, and talked on the importance of remembering veterans.
“This year 2020 has been one of domestic challenges overshadowed by pandemic, civil unrest and spirited politics. We must not forget that we have men and women in uniform who remain in continued armed conflict on foreign shores protecting U.S. interests and providing safety, for us, from those that would do us harm,” said Machut.
The conclusion of the ceremony followed with members throughout Chicagoland’s military community briefly catching up with one another before departing.
“Every day, and especially on Veteran’s Day, I think about the 1.1 million men and women in uniform, the less than one percent of the population, charged with securing the other 99 percent,” said Litynski. “I encourage you to see the strength of our veterans and their families and look for ways to help them.”