Lisle residents and members of Ross Bishop VFW Post 5696 are joining forces to ensure the true meaning of Memorial Day isn't lost during the approaching holiday weekend.
"Memorial Day, to me, is remembering all those who have sacrificed," said retired Army Reserve Col. Brett Nila, commander of the VFW Lisle post. "Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who gave enough of themselves, and because of injury or conditions they acquired during the course of their service, will have their life-span shortened."
Nila will speak at a Memorial Day ceremony drawing on the VFW motto, "To honor the dead by helping the living." He will challenge communities to let veterans know they are still needed in another capacity when they return to civilian life.
"We need to address things on their behalf such as health care and legislation, but also employment, which is a problem, especially for returning veterans," Nila said.
"Veterans come from having so much to do, being involved in an important mission, knowing their role, being held accountable for achieving goals and missions, to coming back to no structure whatsoever. Communities need to get (veterans) involved."
Nila started his Army career in 1979, served in the National Guard for 21 years and finished his 30 years of service in the Army Reserve. He was deployed to Kosovo in 2000 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007.
"We are fortunate today because, as a result of the whole Vietnam-era and that experience, our society can separate those who serve from national policy, and understand that they are doing a duty on behalf of the country," he said.
"It is key to understand that those who serve are an increasingly smaller percentage of the population in this country. In World War II, 11 percent of the population was in the armed forces, and over the past 10 years it is less than 1 percent."
Lt. Col. Mike Bogmenko, who served 37 years in the Army Reserves, is the Grand Marshal for the village's Memorial Day parade. Bogmenko recently returned to the States from deployment in Afghanistan.
"Being in the Lisle parade is one of the most honorable things I can do," said Bogmenko, who was reached at Fort Knox, Ky. "I'll be thinking about the veterans who aren't around to see this day."
Bogmenko, who is called "Goose" by his troops, is a past commander of the Lisle VFW post, and will return to the Chicago area where he will undergo knee replacement surgery from an injury he received in combat.
"I think people should realize that our freedom is not free," he said. "People all over the world envy our democracy."
The Lisle Memorial Day parade will step off at 11 a.m. Monday, May 28, from Lisle Junior High School on Jonquil Avenue and wind its way north on Main Street to School Street to the village hall for a ceremony. It will end at Lisle Cemetery on Ogden Avenue.
The 30 to 40 parade units will honor veterans. Village-sponsored units will pass out small American flags to viewers who line the sidewalks.
Thomas Freeman, who heads the parade committee, said members come together each year "to make sure we never forget our veterans."
A Remembrance Table at the village hall ceremony will acknowledge all five branches of the armed forces: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Mayor Joseph Broda will address the gathering and Lisle Senior High School varsity singers will participate. The Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District will form an honor guard.
At the Lisle cemetery, double buglers will play taps near the grave site of Ross Bishop, who was killed in action during World War II and whose memory is honored by the VFW name.
After the cemetery services, Freeman encourages community members to return to the grounds of the Museums of Lisle Station Park for a free picnic.
Firefighters will staff the barbecue, while Lisle Heritage Society members will conduct tours of the museum buildings and the Lisle Cemetery. It is a casual opportunity to meet your neighbors.
"We hope people will come out and remember our veterans," Freeman said.
For veteran families that have lost a loved one in military service, Nila said the Survivor Outreach Services connect families with people who can help them cope with their loss within months or even years after the death of a loved one to assure they receive the right services.
SOS provides support for active, reserve and all branches of service; however, their primary mission is to serve Army survivors, said Bob Gillmore, senior state survivor services coordinator.
For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (217) 761-3382.