Allen Lynch would like everyone to enjoy Naperville's Memorial Day Parade and their ensuing barbecues. But in between, he hopes they stop and pay respect to a fallen veteran.
Lynch, a Medal of Honor winner and Vietnam veteran from Gurnee, will serve as Grand Marshal of the Naperville parade, stepping off at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 28. The honor, he says, is a stark contrast from the treatment he received after returning home from Vietnam.
If you goWhat: Naperville Memorial Day Parade
When: 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 28
Where: Starts at corner of Jackson Avenue and West Street
During a firefight on Dec. 16, 1967, near My An Binh Dinh province, Republic of Vietnam, Lynch rescued three wounded soldiers and stayed behind to protect them when the rest of the company withdrew. He single-handedly defended the wounded men against enemy attack until locating a friendly force that could evacuate them. Lynch was subsequently promoted to sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
"Memorial Day is the most solemn holiday in the year because this is the time we recognize the men and women who died. As a Medal of Honor recipient, I will represent them as grand marshal," Lynch said. "We are in the middle of a war on terrorism and only 1 percent of our national population is directly involved and rest of us go about our lives. So this day, at least for a time, reignites the belief that freedom isn't free. It's actually very expensive."
Naperville's Memorial Day Parade steps off at 10:30 a.m. Monday from Jackson Avenue and West Street and heads east on Jackson, north on Benton Avenue and east to the parking lot at Ss. Peter and Paul Church.
Parade marshal will be recently-retired Naperville Police Chief David Dial; Officer of the Day is Edwin Kane.
Monday morning, there will also be several brief services around Naperville as well, beginning at 8 a.m. at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/Sept. 11 memorial; 8:30 a.m. at Veterans Park; 8:50 a.m. at the Burlington Park Doughboy sculpture; 9:15 a.m. at Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery; 10 a.m. at the GAR Monument in Naperville Cemetery; and 10:40 a.m. at the corner of Webster and Jackson.
Any local veterans also are invited to join the parade and other services to remember their fallen friends.
Lynch hasn't written a speech for Monday because he said he thinks "canned speeches can come across as insincere." Instead, he'll tailor his remarks to the mood of the crowd.
"Generally, I'll talk about Memorial Day and why we need to celebrate this not only with barbecues, but also with a great degree of solemnity," he said. And if the technology is available, he said he would play the last scenes from "Saving Private Ryan," which he believes sums up how every fallen veteran should be honored.
"All of us living need to take the time to stand before the grave of that soldier and say, 'Your death was worth it. You haven't died in vain or given your life in goofiness,'" he said. "That is the key to Memorial Day."