Memorial Day: The City of Chicago remembers the fallen

318th Theater Public Affairs Support Element
Story by Spc. Nicole Nicolas

Date: 05.28.2019
Posted: 05.28.2019 22:50
News ID: 324229
Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony

CHICAGO — For many, Memorial Day is just one day set aside to remember the fallen. For one commanding general, who served as the grand marshal for Chicago’s Memorial Day events, this remembrance extends beyond one day.
Maj. Gen. Marion Garcia, commanding general, 200th Military Police Command, U.S. Army Reserve, believes Memorial Day happens throughout the year because whenever she hears of one Soldier passing, she remembers all the others.
“Memorial Day is important to me because all the rest of America remembers with us,” Garcia said. “It’s a time for civilians to take a pause and remember.”
Every year, the city’s focus remains taking care of the Gold Star Families as well as commemorating an anniversary of a historical event of America’s past armed forces.
During the Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony, Garcia told the story of her driver, a Soldier to whom she referred as Spc. Nicolas. During one training exercise, Garcia and Nicolas talked about family.
He asked her if she had any family. When she responded, “no,” in her mind, she thought he was referring to children.
After a moment of silence, he responds, “Yes, you do. You have us.”
At that moment Garcia saw a young man sitting next to her “who embodied everything great about this great country. He’s one of 180,000 young men and women who enlisted in the armed forces,” she said, referring to the number of Soldiers in the U.S. Army Reserve in particular.
As years passed, she moved on and so did he. One day, she received an e-mail informing her Nicolas had been killed in action. Her world stopped and she reflected on his life and service.
“In that moment I understood what responsibility to the nation means. I long understood responsibility to my comrade, but this was bigger. This was a sacrifice willingly given so all men and women who are not part of the (armed forces) can enjoy everything about this great country,” Garcia said.
As she spoke to the audience, she asked each member to listen to a Gold Star Family member tell the story of their fallen Soldier because Memorial Day is our time to pay tribute to them.
This Memorial Day in Chicago also marked Lori Lightfoot’s first as the city’s Mayor. Lightfoot personally talked to each family at The Gold Star Family Breakfast in Macy’s Walnut Room.
“They all have a different story to tell because their loved ones come from different backgrounds, but the unifying theme is the journey they’re all on because their loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice and answered the call to service,” Lightfoot said at the Wreath Laying Ceremony. “You will never be alone; we will always honor your loved one’s service. We all understand your need for community and support, and we will be here for you as the city of Chicago.”
The city imbues its devotion to Memorial Day every year, presenting the Major General John A. Logan Patriot Award, which recognizes individuals for their dedication, patriotism and selfless devotion to Chicago’s citizens, veterans and nation’s military. This year the award went to Ron Salazar, who passed away in January. His family accepted on his behalf at the Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony.
Salazar, a program and special events coordinator for the Department of Cultural Affairs for Chicago, always went above and beyond while working as the event designer for the Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony and Parade, said Charles Nash, board member of Chicago Loop Alliance, who co-sponsors the Memorial Day events every year.
The city also brought the 75th anniversary of D-Day and World War II to the forefront in its commemoration of this year’s ceremony. The parade included the 555th “Triple Nickle” Parachute Infantry Battalion, the first All-Black American airborne unit, known as “smokejumpers” during World War II because of specialized forest fire jumps.
Additionally, the parade featured a float which depicted World War II’s second flag raising at Iwo Jima, USO’s vintage vehicles from World War I and II, and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library’s float featured World War I reenactment marchers.