DuPage County has given 27 lives in the fighting since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Each Memorial Day, the non-profit DuPage Veterans Memorial Inc. makes it a point to remind the community of the sacrifice of those and others throughout American history who have paid the ultimate price in defense of their country.
“It’s a remembrance day,” featured speaker George Kouba of the DuPage Veterans Memorial group told the 75 people gathered at the DuPage County War Memorial. “It’s a day you should reflect on the rest of the day and the rest of your lives.”
The commemoration became a yearly event with the completion of the Veterans Memorial in 1999, and the advent of the conflict after 9/11 has brought the reality of war’s sacrifice home to a new generation of DuPage residents.
Marine Corp sLeague Detachment 399, Wheaton, posted the colors to begin the ceremony.
Naperville resident Lisa Marie Schultz sang the “Star-Spangled Banner,, the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America.”
Thomas Brown of Warrenville’s Tunes of Glory Piper played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
Members of Gold Star families, including Dave Larsen, father of Marine Cpl. Nick Larsen, killed in action in Iraq in 2004, laid a wreath at the memorial to the county’s war dead dating back to the Black Hawk War.
Kouba gave a brief history of the holiday that got started in 1869 as Decoration Day. He noted the significance of 2014 being the 70th anniversary of the staging of the Normandy invasion, pointing out that millions of people lost their lives in the Second World War.
Kouba said that the group hoped to refinish the section of the memorial listing DuPage’s World War II dead, which has become tarnished with age to the point where some of the names are hard to read.
Former DuPage County Board member Dirk Enger was the master of ceremonies, saying that it was likely his last time performing the duty.
Normally in his Marine dress blues for this ceremony, Enger wore the same camouflage uniform he wore more than 20 years earlier as part of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.
“This uniform should have a place here,” he said.
Several observers commented on the breaking scandal in the Veterans Administration involving reportedly phony waiting lists for vets to receive treatment, which has resulted in the deaths of some of those veterans.
Enger decried the situation, but said it “hardened my heart” that many were criticizing VA Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki, who he said had performed admirably with limited resources and stepped up and taken responsibility for the problem.
Terry Owens, a Vietnam veteran and president of DVM, said the situation was unfortunate, but noted “it’s not necessarily “new” news…but revealed news.”
Other vets echoed Enger’s feelings that the VA was doing pretty well with limited resources.
“They need more doctors,” Vietnam Marine veteran Merrill Albertus said. “but they keep cutting the budget.”
Enger was adamant in his defense of Shinseki.
“I think it’s a shame,” he said, pointing out that Shinseki had reduced the waiting list at VA facilities from 611,000 to 328,000 and reduced waiting time for visits from five to six months to 125 days.
“He’s not the problem at the VA,” Enger said.Tags: DuPage County, DuPage Veterans Memorial, Memorial Day