Norridge celebrates Memorial Day
05/27/2012 Norridge Memorial wreaths are placed at the Veteran's Memorial during the Norridge Veterans Memorial Day ceremony in Norridge on Sunday, May 27, 2012. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:18PM
When their armed services songs played, former military men and women stood up. They waved to the crowd. They raised their hands in salute. And for them, the audience cheered.
In addition to remembering and paying tribute the countless lives lost at war throughout American history, the 19th annual Norridge Veterans Memorial Day program on Sunday also gave special acknowledgment to those who safely returned home. Held at Norridge Veterans Memorial, adjacent to Village Hall, 4000 N. Olcott Ave., the ceremony was emceed by U.S. Army veteran and Village Trustee Dominic Sulimowski, who welcomed the throng of uniformed personnel, including special guests Rear Admiral Tilghman Payne, Commander, Navy Region Midwest and Lt. Col. David Owen, inspector-instructor, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.
The hour-long ceremony, the village’s largest of the year, served as a reminder that no sacrifice goes unrecognized, especially by those who died fighting for what they believed in.
“We’re gathered here today to remember and to honor sacrifice. We’re here to remember that freedom isn’t free,” said Owen, who hails from Gary, Ind. “We’re here to remember the men and women who stepped forward and said ‘send me.’ ”
Owen asked onlookers to continue sharing the story of service to community and country.
“Go tell Americans that you’re grateful for the sacrifice of their sons, daughters, husbands and wives in support of this great country,” he said. “Let’s tell the story, tell it proudly, and continue to serve.”
The ceremony included a parade of 50 U.S. state flags by current U.S. Navy recruits form the Great Lakes Training Command, the raising of the American and POW/MIA flags to full-mast, and prayer led by Rev. Ray Hinch.
A solemn highlight of the program, a ceremonial laying of wreaths at the granite obelisk and memorial wall, represented an outpouring of thanks from a dozen local organizations and families.
Among those showing allegiance at the wall was Janet Skotzko, whose handmade navy blue sunhat with a red bandanna bow served a dual purpose the hot Sunday afternoon.
Like she has done for the past several years, the Chicago resident attended the 19th annual Norridge Veterans Memorial Day Program flanked by military men of Edison Park American Legion Post 541: her husband, Jerry Skotzko, who did time with the Army in the Korean War; Bill Gessl, of Chicago, was in Korea with the Air Force; and John Jaros, of Edison Park, who served with the Navy during World War II.
The men represented their local legion by a laying a wreath in honor of their fallen comrades.
“I remember some of the guys who didn’t come back,” Jaros said. “I was very fortunate.”
Norridge resident Karen Bucaro got choked up after the event thinking about her uncle, Frank Jefferson, a World War II solider who died in Anzio, a prewar Italian resort town located 40 miles from Rome.
“We’re honoring his memory plus all of the family members who served,” she said.
Bucaro and her husband, Frank, an Army veteran, annually attend the village’s Memorial Day service. This year they were accompanied Karen’s sister, Patti Pallohusky, and her husband, Chester, who drove in from Texas.
All are intimately tied to the military. Karen and Patti’s father George Lehrmann and uncles Nick and Serafin Di Giglio served during World War II. So, too, did Chester Pallohusky’s father.
“We’re here because of them,” Karen Bucaro said of the event, adding: “It’s beautiful, it’s memorable, it’s heartwarming.”