For a list of nearby Memorial Day events, click here.
To many, Memorial Day means summer has arrived with its festivals and fairs, parades, outdoor concerts and long, warm summer evenings.
But, to others, Memorial Day is a somber holiday — a day of remembrance.
This year’s Memorial Day will mark the 145th year of the holiday, which originally was called Decoration Day.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “… on May 5, 1868 … the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day as a day for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.”
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day was celebrated May 30 each year throughout the U.S., but it wasn’t until after World War I that the holiday included all who have died in American wars, the USDVA says.
Memorial Day was declared a national holiday in 1971 by Congress and placed on the last Monday in May.
In The Eyes Of Vets
A common way many communities celebrate this day of remembrance is with Memorial Day festivals and parades, though some celebrations have become smaller throughout the years.
“Unfortunately, because many of the vets from World War II and Korea are gone and the Vietnam vets never received a lot of recognition, the parades have gotten smaller,” says John Hanson of Woodstock, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. “We need to get more people involved.”
That doesn’t mean that people aren’t honoring veterans though.
“In general, there seems to be more patriotism and celebration toward those in the service — this is on a whole, not just about Memorial Day,” says Dave Burdloff of Crystal Lake, who served a year in Vietnam.
However, “every day” patriotism may have decreased the significance of the holiday, says Burdloff’s wife, Connie.
“Even though it’s great that vets are now given so much credit for their service, that, in a way, takes away from the significance of Memorial Day, which used to be a very special holiday,” she says.
She suggests that Crystal Lake “line the streets with flags” for Memorial Day like the city does for the Fourth of July.
“This really makes a statement,” she says.
Hanson says getting youth involved is a way to keep the holiday from losing support.
“I’m always encouraging other vets to become involved with their local club again,” Hanson says. “Another way we can help those remember Memorial Day is to teach the kids — a few of the guys from the club and I visit the schools and talk about our service.”
Overall, Memorial Day continues to have strong meaning for veterans.
“For me, the holiday is a day to celebrate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Burdloff says.
“Memorial Day reminds me of all of my best friends and uncles whom I lost,” he says.
Remember those who served at some of these local Memorial Day celebrations:
Crystal Lake American Legion Post 171 Memorial Day Parade and Cemetery Service
11 a.m. Monday, May 27, in Crystal Lake
The parade will begin at Crystal Lake Central High School, 45 W. Franklin Ave. Following the parade, a memorial service will take place at Union Cemetery located at 171 W. Woodstock St.
For more information, call 815-459-2020 or visit www.crystallake.org.
Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony
10 a.m. Monday, May 27, in Woodstock
A Memorial Day parade will begin at Woodstock Square, at the corner of N. Benton Street and Cass Street. For more information call 815-624-6325.
Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony
11 a.m. Monday, May 27, in Huntley
Sponsored by Huntley American Legion Post 673, the parade will start at the parking lot of the Municipal Complex at 10987 Main St. and travel west on Main Street to the Town Square. For more information, call Patrick Conley at 815-802-8280, the American Legion Hall at 847-669-8485 or email email@example.com.
Combined Veterans Memorial Day Ceremony
10 a.m. Monday, May 27, in McHenry
This annual event will begin at Veterans Memorial Park, 1450 Court St., with a brief parade and the laying of a wreath at Woodlawn Cemetery and in the Fox River. It will conclude with the playing of taps and a rifle salute. For more information, call 815-363-2100 or visit www.ci.mchenry.il.us.
Memorial Day Events in Johnsburg
9 a.m. Monday, May 27, in Johnsburg
Johnsburg VFW Post 11496 will host a variety of activities to celebrate Memorial Day. At 9 a.m., attendees can view the Riverfront Opening Ceremony from Chapel Hill Bridge and 7 Days Market river apron or from boats on the west side of the river. Flying aircraft will be a part of the ceremony. The parade will begin at 9:30 and head to the Johnsburg Community Center at 2315 W. Church St. for the rest of the day’s events. Antique and military vehicles will be on display during a picnic and baseball games following the parade. There also will be free hot dogs and soda. For more information, visit www.johnsburgvfw.org/memorial_day.html. mc