Back in 1989, a memorable event took place in the heart of Aurora as part of a heartfelt, national movement.
For several days in May of that year, the Veterans Memorial Moving Wall was stationed at what was then known as Illinois Avenue Island Park. Meant to serve as a traveling tribute to all of our nation's great veterans, the wall was visited by more than 150,000 well-wishers.
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It had a profound impact on our local communities, so much so that it inspired a movement to create a permanent memorial for the tens of thousands of local veterans whom we call family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
In 1992, the Fox Valley Park District donated the northern portion of Illinois Avenue Island Park to serve as a site of remembrance and appreciation. Today it stands proud as Veterans Memorial Park, its centerpiece a monument of five stone slabs -- each representing a branch of the armed forces. The 24-foot high slabs are arranged in the shape of a star and topped by a ring of lights, a visually touching tribute to military veterans of the past, present and future.
Veterans Memorial Park is a poignant reminder year-round of the contributions and sacrifices our veterans have made, and continue to make. The park district keeps the proverbial flame burning all year, but especially so in November, which has been proclaimed as Veterans Recognition Month.
Throughout November, veterans and their families will be accorded free use of all park district fitness centers at Vaughan, Eola and Prisco.
In addition, the park district is hosting a Veterans Day Luncheon from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, at the Prisco Community Center. All veterans will enjoy free admission (register by Monday, Nov. 5).
Two days later, Veterans Island will be the focal point for a remembrance ceremony. On the morning of Sunday, Nov. 11, the city of Aurora's Community Services Veterans Day Processional and Remembrance Ceremony will stage in the Prisco Center parking lot and, around 10:15 a.m., begin a symbolic march eastward across the Fox River, and gather for the ceremony at the Veterans Memorial beginning around 10:30 a.m.
Twenty years ago at the Veterans Island dedication, a 6-year old boy evoked emotions from all at the gathering and brought tears to many. "Someday, I hope I can stop wars that kill people," he said innocently, "and then there will be no future veterans to pray for."
Such statements really hit home. We'll never be able to thank our veterans enough, but ceremonies like those set for next week are opportunities that allow us to express gratitude and recognize the sacrifice and valor of our active and former servicemen and women. They embody the greatness of our country of which we are all privileged to share.
• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him a firstname.lastname@example.org