At 11:00am today, our community gathered at the Highland Park Public library to salute the incredible men and women who serve or have served the United States of America.

My speech follows:

Good morning!  Welcome everyone!  Bravo HPHS Wind Symphony!  And Rebecca Cary – fantastic!  Rabbi Sommer – thank you!  Music Director Josh Chodoroff – thank  you!

Thank you to the Highland Park Public Library for hosting our Veterans Day Ceremony!  Welcome to our guest speakers: Illinois Senator Julie Morrison, Illinois Representative Scott Drury, Lt. Col. Robert Miller from Fort Sheridan and Captain William Bulis from Naval Station Great Lakes.  Thank you to American Legion Post #145, Veterans of the Foreign Wars Post #4737 and Jewish War Veterans #29.  And I’d like to thank my Council colleagues Kim Stone, Alyssa Knobel and Michelle Holleman for joining us today.  Thank you to Boy Scout Troop 324 for your assistance today and to City Manager Ghida Neukirch, Karen Berardi and Jennifer Dotson for their help with this important event.

We are so fortunate to have this chance, this day to come together to honor and salute the many people who have served or are currently serving our great United States.  Let’s make the effort to honor them every day.  For every day, they bear the burdens of battles past or their families feel the absence of family members still in harm’s way.  They do this on behalf of each of us, and the protection of our American freedoms.

I’d like to ask those representing each branch of the United States military service to please stand when I call your branch, if you are able.  The United States Army. The United States Air Force.  The United States Navy, The United States Marines.  The United States Coast Guard.  Thank you for your service and for your continued work on behalf of our community, our country and fellow veterans.

The care of our active and retired military is critical and something we as United States citizens can and must do.  We must  ensure that the short and long-term needs of these dedicated men and women and their families are met and continue to be met. Here in our community we are fully engaged in this effort whether it is by providing jobs or simply connecting as a community to thoughtfully and meaningfully meet their needs.

I am so proud that the City of Highland Park employs the following United States veterans, please stand if you are here:

Nathan Abbott – US Marine Corps

Karen Berardi – US Army

Mike Gilbert – US Marine Corps

Ted Leffert – US Navy

Jon Lowman – US Coast Guard

James Mitchell – US Navy

Linda Ramsey – US Army

Adam Stuckrath – US Marine Corps

Walt Willing – US Army

These United States veterans work across the City fighting fires, protecting us from harm, ensuring the safety of our water supply and more. We as a City recognize the value, dedication, experience and work ethic these individuals bring to our community. We appreciate their work and the work of so many other active and retired military personnel. As further support, we as a City have added critical social work services to assist those veterans facing the traumatic effects of war and the difficulties of returning home.

When I became mayor, I created a military liaison position.  Bill Schur, please stand. Bill is our military liaison.  I may have created the position, but Bill brought it to life.  He has tirelessly worked with City staff, elected and appointed officials and representatives from the business community to ensure that members of the military and their families feel honored, and welcome and appreciated at our businesses and as they use our Park District programs and facilities.

He built the bridge between the USO and the City of Highland Park. Through this relationship, the City sponsored a successful book, school and art supply drive and he gave us the chance to serve the Navy’s newest members a wonderful meal at Naval Station Great Lakes’ No Dough Dinner, provided by our very own Real Urban BBQ,  greeting every single person who came through the line with the salutation “Hello Sailor!  Where are you from?”  I know because I was standing right next to him!  And somehow, Bill had been to or knew someone from every sailor’s hometown.  They were new, they were nervous, and with that small gesture, Bill brought them in, and made them feel special as we served them dinner.  Thank you Bill for your perseverance and creativity in continually giving our community the opportunity to thank and provide for our United States military personnel and their families.

Another critical place for our veterans’ services is our Senior Center, where many activities and groups provide on-going friendships among others who understand the experiences of battles past.  From these groups, we have heard the many incredible stories of bravery and contributions to our nation’s safety as well as on-going support of United States veterans.   These stories are what inspired me to create the Heroes Among Us, an opportunity for our veterans groups to significantly recognize one of their own.  Today, in a little bit, we will be celebrating Sheldon Konowitz, a familiar face to all who participate in our veterans’ ceremonies.

We as a City, as a community, are so appreciative of each of you and your families.  You not only gave of yourselves in horrifying conditions, but continue to serve your community here at home.  You are role models, and truly inspire each of us to be a little better, live life to a higher standard and appreciate that freedom comes at a price.  We thank you.  We salute you.  We honor you today and every day.

Thank you.

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