Naperville thanks veterans, celebrates history of park in their honor
More than 100 spectators and nearly as many veterans marked the 25th anniversary of Naperville's Veterans Park on a day set aside to honor those who have served.
The Veterans Day ceremony in Naperville was patriotic, respectful and swift, keeping the crowd out in a sleety mist for no more than 20 minutes once Naperville veteran Terry Jelinek got it started with a moment of silence.
With hands on hearts and heads bowed, veterans and their supporters listened to "The Star-Spangled Banner" played by about 20 members of the Naperville Municipal Band. Jelinek reminded the crowd in the park on Gartner Road that freedom always has demanded a heavy price -- the sacrifices of veterans -- and he encouraged those gathered to keep veterans in their thoughts and prayers.
"When you see a veteran, say 'Thank you,'" said Naperville Mayor George Pradel, a former Marine whom Jelinek said hasn't missed a Veterans Day ceremony in his hometown since becoming mayor nearly 20 years ago. "They're here for one reason and that's to serve you."
The day for many Naperville veterans began with a breakfast in their honor sponsored by Naperville Unit District 203 and visits to schools.
"They've been encouraged by the young people saluting them and paying tribute to them," Pradel said about the city's veterans. "We need to keep this history going."
Learning the stories of veterans by simply talking to them is one of the best ways to celebrate Veterans Day, said Lee Lindberg, commander of American Legion Post 43 in Naperville.
Veterans Day differentiates itself from Memorial Day because it's more about living veterans than those who have died.
"Now we have a chance to visit, talk to, enjoy and thank veterans who are still with us," Lindberg said.
As communities across the region marked Veterans Day with ceremonies and patriotic music, the group gathered at Veterans Park in Naperville listened to the service anthems for each branch of the military and heard a prayer that concluded with "God bless America. Amen."
"Every day is really Veterans Day," said Bob Bronson, commander of Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 in Naperville. "Every day we should keep in our hearts the memories of those who have served and those who are serving."