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NEWS | May 25, 2015

Local Chicago land community remembers its past veterans

By Story by Spc. David Lietz 85th Support Command

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Veterans, local military personnel, community leaders and Gold Star families filled the gymnasium with the local community at Christian Liberty Academy for a Memorial Day commemoration to honor the sacrifices of past veterans from all branches of the armed forces May 25. 

The ceremony paid tribute to former Arlington Heights residents who served and died across 15 military conflicts dating back to the Civil War. 

Greg Padovani, chairman of the Arlington Heights Veterans Memorial Committee, gave opening remarks for the ceremony, “Thank you to all our veterans. I’d like to open up the ceremony with a prayer.” 

Father Matt Foley, pastor for the local St. James Catholic Church gave the invocation for the ceremony.

“We pause to remember (those) who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Foley, a former Army chaplain who served four deployments to Afghanistan.

Immediately following, the 144th Army National Guard Band, based out of Springfield, Illinois, played the national anthem where audience members spontaneously began singing aloud as the band played. 

Michael McInerney, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 981, welcomed the Gold Star families.

“We have some very special dignitaries – The Gold Star Families,” he said. “Today’s ceremony is to honor our fallen (service members) who made the ultimate sacrifice.” 

Robert Stack, a Gold Star father, spoke about the character of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. James Bray Stack, who was killed in action serving in Afghanistan on Nov. 10, 2010. Stack also shared that his son always wanted to be a U.S. Marine.

“As James was growing up, I would often say make me proud son,” he said. “James was proud to claim the title of United States Marine.”

Service members who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam could be seen throughout the crowd by their distinct patches on their caps.

Army Veteran Dale Berg served as an infantryman in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. 

“I fought in the battle of Renegade Woods in South Vietnam,” he said. ”In that battle, my platoon lost 30 soldiers in 15 minutes.”

Also in the audience was World War II Air Force veteran Robert Sylvester. 

“I was an instructor in B-29s. I started as an instructor pilot in B-17s.” 

Mayor Tom Hayes, mayor of Arlington Heights and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, spoke about the purpose of the ceremony before the reading of names of last year’s deceased Arlington Heights residents who previously served.

“We gather to honor those who answered the call to duty. Arlington Heights residents have fought and died with distinction,” he said. “Soon we will hear the names of more than 200 men and women who carried the flag.”

Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco Jr., commanding general of the 85th Support Command, shared brief remarks as one of the community’s local Army Reserve units there. Arlington Heights was the third community that Maiocco participated in during the Memorial Day weekend. He participated in the city of Chicago on May 23, and the Village of Norridge on May 24.

“This is a truly phenomenal celebration,” he said. “It involves a time of solemn mourning and remembering. We celebrate the freedom and liberties of America.” 

Ninth District Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Mark Kirk were also in attendance. Schakowsky was one of many wreath layers presenting wreaths alongside with local military, police and fire personnel. 

“What a beautiful celebration,” she said. “I thought it was very moving to hear the names of those who served and the fallen.” 

Kirk, a former U.S. Navy Reserve officer with 21 years of service, honored Sgt. Lee Seimer, Genoa, Ill., native, who served as a combat medic in Afghanistan in 2009. 

Seimer, who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after sustaining injuries during a night mission there, will be medically retired later this year. 

During the ceremony, retired Maj. Gen. John Scully, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, gave remarks and took a few moments to specifically speak on those that served during the Vietnam War and recognizing friends that he lost.

“On this Memorial Day we recall those who gave everything in the darkness of war so (that) we could stand here in the glorious spring,” said Scully. “This year begins the 50th commemoration of our war in Vietnam, we recognize 2,594,000 troops who served in Vietnam and we honor the 58,282 Americans who died in that war. We do not forget the 10,000 military who are still missing in action. We salute all those who served and stand with the families who love them still.”