At 11:00am today our community gathered at Memorial Park to salute our nation’s fallen during the Highland Park Memorial Day Ceremony.

Special guests included: State Senator Julie Morrison, Mayor Daniel Pierce, Highland Park Military Liaison William Schur, members of American Legion Post #145, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4737 and Jewish War Veterans Post #29. Music was provided by the Highland Park Highland Park High School band and refreshments were donated by Sunset Foods.

My speech follows:

Good Morning!  Thank you to the Veterans of the Foreign Wars Post 4737, the Jewish War Veterans North Shore Post 29 and American Legion Post 145 for the opportunity to come together this morning and honor our nation’s fallen.

I’d like to recognize my Council colleagues who have joined us this morning:  David Naftzger, Dan Kaufman, and Alyssa Knobel as well as our City Manager Dave Knapp and Deputy City Manager Ghida Neukirch.

And welcome to the families of our current military members.  I’d also like to thank the Scouts and the HPHS Band for joining us on this important occasion.

In 1915, in Ypres Salient, a surgeon and Lt. Colonel in the Canadian Army named John McCrae looked around at the devastation and reflected on the horror of the past seventeen days he had spent treating wounded soldiers from many nations.  He had just buried a dear friend and former student and out of sheer sadness wrote:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Though written almost 100 years ago, the fragility of life, the pain of loss, the sacrifices we acknowledge on this special day are felt as sharply now as ever.  Even today, we look at the young faces in photographs in the newspaper, read the stories and contemplate the losses and the names of those who have died serving our great nation.

In 1918, two days before Armistice Day, a woman named Moina Michael was inspired by the poem and created the idea of wearing red poppies in remembrance of those who died serving our nation.  She sold poppies to her friends and co-workers, and the money earned was used to benefit servicemen and women and children in need.  In 1922, the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies.

Today, our servicemen and women and their families continue to need our support.

A word of thanks seems not nearly enough to share our heartfelt appreciation to the families left behind by these American heroes.  So while we must and do say thank you, and pause for a moment to respect those who have fallen in service to our country, I also ask that we each take a moment, and reflect on the freedoms and liberties protected by their valor, the peace we experience here at home thanks to their incredible sacrifice, and how fortunate we each are to live in the United States of America.

I also ask that you seek out ways in which you can make that personal touch, that personal effort to help our neighbors, our service members within our community.  The City of Highland Park is taking steps via the many efforts of our military liaison, but look around you, thank a serviceman or woman in uniform, introduce yourself, be a neighbor.

And if your flag isn’t out yet, please go home and proudly wave the colors under which so many fought and for which so many died.  We are grateful to them and so very fortunate to be able to honor their memories.  Thank you.


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