While Memorial Day's mission is to never forget the ultimate sacrifices of America's veterans, Arlington Heights showed Monday that a community can take the time for specific remembrances, too.
One example occurred in Memorial Park: Sen. Mark Kirk's posthumous presentation of a Bronze Star to Nancy Clauser of Mount Prospect, lone surviving cousin of Chicago native John Bock, who likely earned the medal at the Battle of the Bulge.
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Bock was an aeronautical engineer who retired to New Mexico in later life. But his survivors discovered he'd never received the Bronze Star only after going through his papers following his death four years ago.
"He didn't talk about it," Clauser said.
Nevertheless, seeing that the medal was received in her cousin's name became important for Clauser and her husband, Jack, who described hitting a bureaucratic brick wall until he sought the help of Kirk's office six months ago.
Jack Clauser said the Battle of the Bulge is the family's best guess of when during World War II Bock earned the medal, as the records of the exact act of combat bravery were destroyed by a fire at the Pentagon in the 1960s.
Monday's ceremony also included the reading of the names of all 58 of Arlington Heights veterans who fell in the line of duty -- from Jacob Sigwalt in the Civil War on Dec. 31, 1862, through James Bray Stack in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan on Nov. 10, 2010.
Arlington International Racetrack Chairman Richard Duchossois, a World War II veteran, was named the first parade grand marshal in nearly 40 years. He talked of all that had changed -- and not changed -- about the U.S. since that world-changing conflict. "Why is it that so many people from around the world want to come over here to live, but very few people from here want to go over there to live?" he asked. "I think I have an answer. I think it's about freedom."
Also not forgotten were the names of 268 veterans from the Arlington Heights area who returned alive from combat but died during the past year ending April 30.
Chuck Vassallo, commander of Arlington Heights' Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 981, thanked the crowd at Memorial Park for not letting veterans suffer that "second death" of being forgotten.
"Many Americans have forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day," Vassallo said. "There are many that have not held a parade in decades. That's a shame. Good for you for being here."
Like numerous other suburbs, Mount Prospect held a Memorial Day parade and ceremony. Veterans led a procession consisting of the Prospect High School marching band, neighborhood groups and scout troops.
Scouts played a prominent role in assisting veterans groups at many different Memorial Day events, including a remembrance ceremony at Lake Park in Des Plaines. A flag retirement service was held in Bartlett.