Allen Lynch, a former soldier and recipient of the Medal of Honor, said Monday he's often taken aback when he hears people wish one another a "Happy Memorial Day."
"Memorial Day is actually one of the most solemn days we have, especially if you've been in the service," he said. "It's a time when we remember those men and women who have given everything, so that we can be free."
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Lynch, a Gurnee resident, was the keynote speaker at the Memorial Day Ceremony in Lake Zurich, just one of many that took place in Lake County on Monday.
Lake Zurich's event began with a parade through downtown and ended with a service in front of the Veterans Monument on Mohawk Trail.
Hundreds of people sat along Main Street to watch the parade, led by the Lake Zurich High School band and featuring several groups of local scouts. Spectators clapped, waved and took pictures.
The mood at the Veterans Monument was more somber, as Lynch and other speakers talked about the need to remember those who have paid the ultimate price to protect our country.
Lake Zurich Mayor Tom Poynton outlined the history of military service in his own family, a history that stretches from World War I up through the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s.
"There are far too many people in this country who need to remember that the blood, sweat and tears of a select few were shed to benefit the many," he said.
Lynch, in his talk, also hit on the theme of remembrance. Lynch received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War, when he risked his own life to save three wounded soldiers in his platoon.
"We have a duty," Lynch said, "to make sure our heritage is remembered."
Lake Zurich's service, organized by American Legion Post 964, also included military music from the high school band and a "Missing Man" Table Ceremony, which honors soldiers missing in action.
Other Lake County towns honored veterans on Monday, too. Parades and services were held in Wauconda and Mundelein, among other towns, and an observance was held at the Fox Lake train station.