An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people watched military units, scout troops, distinguished military officers, and veterans march through the streets of Arlington Heights, Illinois during their 97th annual Memorial Day ceremony on May 30th, 2016.
Greg Padovani, Chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights, estimated 3,000 participants in the parade.
Leo, 7, Buffalo Grove resident, salutes with a "We Love Our Vets" sign nearby during the Memorial Day Parade in Arlington Heights, Illinois. An estimated 10,000 people watched the parade under sunny skies on May 30th, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Berogan)
Rear Admiral Stephen Evans, Commander, Naval Services Training Command, Naval Station Great Lakes, served as this year's grand marshal.
“To me, Memorial Day is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of men and women in uniform who make this the greatest nation on earth,” said Evans.
Former U.S. Army infantryman, Sgt. (retired) Jason Smith reflected on his meaning of Memorial Day. Smith lost his right and left leg while teaching a class on Improvised Explosive Devices to Afghan National Army soldiers during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2012.
“I was blown up by a 15 pound I.E.D,” he said. “To me, it (Memorial Day) shows how close I was to dying. It's not a holiday to barbecue.”
Despite his injuries, however, Smith is optimistic about his future.
“I'm doing great. I have my second child on the way. I'm married to my wife Lauren, (and) I've been married 20 months,” explained Smith.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments at this year's parade took place at Memorial Park. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk presented a purple heart and other awards to World War II Veteran Irving M. Abramson who was wounded fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
World War II Veteran Irving M. Abramson gives a thumbs-up during a story recounting a kiss he received, from actress Marlene Dietrich, while he recovered from wounds inflicted during the Battle of the Bulge. Abramson received the Purple Heart and other medals for his service during World War II at the Arlington Heights' Memorial Day commemoration, May 30, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Berogan)
“I was told that while he was recovering in the hospital, he was given a kiss by actress Marlene Dietrich, “ explained Kirk as Abramson gave a thumbs-up and smiled.
Later in the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco Jr., Commanding General, 85th Support Command, Arlington Heights, Ill. shared remarks to the local community.
“What a privilege to be here, I'm humbled and honored to follow after a veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge,” he said.
Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco Jr., Commanding General, 85th Support Command, waves from a World War II era jeep during the Memorial Day Parade in Arlington Heights, Illinois on May 30, 2016. (US Army Photo by Sgt. Aaron Berogan)
“These World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other veterans, you are our heroes. We commend you for the incredible freedoms you have secured for our country,” said Maiocco. “Our heroes are ordinary citizens, our neighbors, our friends.”
Maiocco also shared his thanks to the Gold Star families for their support and sacrifices. “The Gold Star families give us strength. We are eternally grateful for all that you do.”
By U.S. Army Spc. David Lietz
Provided through DVIDS
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