2018 Memorial Day Address
Presented by Mayor Ruben Pineda
Good morning and thank you to American Legion Post 300, its Ladies Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6791 and its Auxiliary for inviting me to say a few words at this year’s Memorial Day Observance.
I am deeply honored to stand with you, commemorating the sacrifices of those military men and women who have laid down their lives in service to this nation.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge any who have lost a loved one in the line of duty to this country. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed – no words of condolence can even begin to adequately console a survivor’s grief. And while grief from loss may change throughout the years – it never leaves us.
On every last Monday in May, we find ourselves reflecting on these men and women who so bravely risked life and limb in the face of grave danger. We remember those who left the comforts of home to fight for us and our freedom – but never returned to one day trade the title of soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman or Marine for veteran.
We mourned our brothers and sisters in arms the day they left us, and we mourn them now.
The men and women who have given their lives in service to this nation are—indisputably—heroes. When their country called, they answered. Some volunteered and some were volun-told, but no matter how they found their way into the ranks of the military, each took it upon him or herself to serve faithfully and to their fullest.
Here at the Soldiers and Sailors monument, dedicated in 1915 through the efforts of the West Chicago Woman’s Club, we remember our community’s veterans, as we walk amidst the headstone markers and read the names of West Chicagoans who served. But, for some of our veterans across this great nation, we are unable to pay our respects at a final resting place. There are still 82,368 military personnel missing in action from every conflict since World War II. We will never forget them, and we will never stop looking to bring them home.
This past August, the ill-fated USS Indianapolis was finally discovered, more than 70 years after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. On July 30, 1945, the ship sank in just 12 minutes. Of the 1,195 crew onboard, approximately 300 went down with the cruiser. The remaining sailors and Marines faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning, delirium and shark attacks while floating in the Philippine Sea with few lifeboats, life preservers, food or water.
The Navy didn’t learn of the sinking until survivors were spotted four days later by a flight crew on routine patrol. As a result, there were only 316 survivors.
The families of those lost onboard the USS Indianapolis received a small sense of closure last year. But they are still a part of a club that no one asks to join. While service members and their families understand and accept the risks they take by volunteering to serve our great nation, nothing can fully prepare a survivor for that knock on the door.
The recent tragic loss of life of four Marines, two soldiers and an Air Force Thunderbird pilot just last month through three aviation crashes in three different states illustrates the dangers involved in military service. Those of us here today understand the importance of recognizing their service and sacrifice, to ensure these individuals are never forgotten, and that their actions stay alive in our memories—and in our hearts. Let us acknowledge and honor these lives cut short: Captain Samuel Schultz; First Lieutenant Samuel Phillip; Gunnery Sergeant Richard Holley; Lance Corporal Taylor Conrad; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Connolly; Warrant Officer James Casadona; and Major Stephen Del Bagno.
A nationwide campaign is underway to recognize veterans in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The Disabled American Veterans organization has played an active role in honoring veterans who served during this tumultuous time with a humble thank you from a grateful nation and a pin to signify their service.
But there are 58,272 people who will never receive that token of appreciation or those genuine thanks.
58,272 names line the Vietnam Wall in Washington, which remains a striking visual of the cost of war.
One of those names belongs to Sgt. Darrell Lee Colford of the 25th Infantry Division. Sgt. Colford, of West Chicago, IL began his tour of duty on April 15, 1970. While leading a patrol in Bien Hoa, South Vietnam on November 8, 1970, he was killed by a hostile explosive device on the ground within months of the start of his service.
Captain Alan James Dean U.S. Marine Corps of West Chicago, served our country for 8 years before being killed in a hostile helicopter crash in Quang Ngai, South Vietnam. A message left on the Wall reads “You were one of the brave that answered the call. You honored us by your service and sacrifice. We now honor You each time, we stand and sing the words, THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME, OF THE BRAVE. Thank you, for your bravery, courage and dedication, to our Country and freedom. Rest in Peace and Honor.”
This is the message we extend today, on this Memorial Day, for each and every one of our fallen heroes.
May God bless them and their families, and hold them in the palm of His Hand.
And, may God bless West Chicago and the wonderful country we live in, the United States of America.