“Memorial Day is a day of national, solemn reverence; a day for us to honor the military men and women who gave their lives in defense of our nation, its values, our freedoms and our liberties,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston, Sergeant Major of the Army. “This Memorial Day, I hope that we can remember the link we have with all the generations who have gone before us. They selflessly served our country and paid that ultimate price.”
Grinston provided the keynote speech for the City of Chicago’s Memorial Day Commemoration held at Daley Plaza, May 30, 2020. The commemoration included a wreath laying ceremony; speeches by Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth; a presentation of colors by the Rickover Naval Academy Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets Color Guard; a 21 Gun Salute by the Illinois National Guard; and performances by the U.S. Army Field Band Brass Quintet and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Ensemble.
During the ceremony, Grinston honored Gold Star Family members such as Carmoneta and Henry Mayfield, parents of Army Spc. Henry “Mitch” Mayfield Junior of Hazel Crest, Illinois who was killed January 5th, 2020 in an attack by al-Shabab militants on Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group based at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
“If you know a Gold Star or surviving family, let them know you remember their Soldier and are grateful for the service they gave to our country," said Grinston.
Maj. Gen. Michael Zerbonia, Assistant Adjutant General, Army, Illinois National Guard shared his thoughts on the ceremony.
“It’s an honor to be here today. It is always humbling to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Without them we would not be able to do what we do today,” said Zerbonia who retires in July with 38 years of Army service.
“Once again the City of Chicago out did itself honoring our fallen service men and women for Memorial Day,” said Command Sgt. Maj Theodore Dewitt, 85th United States Army Reserve Support Command. “Sergeant Major of the Army Grinston’s remarks truly conveyed what Memorial Day represents, honor!”
The Memorial Day ceremony at Daley Plaza was just one of multiple events Grinston attended during his visit to the Windy City.
On Friday morning Grinston, discussed Army priorities during a breakfast with members of the Chicago Gold Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization. The YPO’s primary mission is to develop “Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange.”
“These are business leaders over the age of fifty. They are all presidents or CEOs of their companies,” said Myca Stahl, event planner for the YPO. “I think it’s great. They are very interested in what the Sergeant Major of the Army has to say today. This group is highly educated. They are a very active, engaged group of leaders who want to help anyway they can.”
Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Tremblay a member of the Black Daggers Special Operations Parachute Demonstration Team was one of the military personnel who attended the breakfast. “It’s an honor to do this. Being able to take part in an event like this is heartwarming. It’s good to see the City of Chicago come together,” said Tremblay.
Later, Grinston participated in a recorded interview at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. He answered questions and spoke on changing the Army culture to develop engaged leaders, and building cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined and fit. Immediately following the interview, Grinston met to speak with JROTC cadets who were in the audience.
That afternoon, Grinston led a question and answer session during a town hall style luncheon at the Union League Club, hosted by Illinois Joining Forces, a public/private partnership created by the State of Illinois to support military veterans, and the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation.
“Having the Sergeant Major of the Army here in Chicago is such an honor,” said Jim Bland, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, representing Illinois. “We had two Gold Star Families here. It means so much to have the Sergeant Major of the Army here honoring Chicagoans who have given the ultimate sacrifice to the nation.”
Grinston later met with Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot at her office in Chicago’s City Hall to reaffirm the U.S. Army’s commitment to the City of Chicago, and discussed the Army’s Transition Assistance Program, and National Hiring Days recruiting effort.
“We spent a lot of time talking about training support for Soldiers and what we could do together to help members transition out of the military," said Lightfoot. “It was clear to me that he cares about his troops not only when they are in active service, but thereafter for the rest of their lives.”
Saturday morning prior to the city’s Memorial Day ceremony, Grinston conducted physical training with cadets from Fire Battalion, 3rd Brigade, Cadet Command, Army ROTC at the University of Illinois Chicago. Before departing Chicago, Grinston wrapped up the Memorial Day weekend by throwing out a ceremonial first pitch for the Chicago White Sox baseball game versus the Baltimore Orioles.