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Sycamore High remembers fallen veterans

Published: Friday, May 23, 2014 11:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 23, 2014 11:52 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Sgt. 1st Class Clayton Riley, readiness NCO, Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion 122 Field Artillery Regiment, walks the halls Friday of Sycamore High School carrying the flag followed by other veterans and active duty members.
Caption
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Veteran Jerry Pelan (left), who served in the Marine Corps from 1959 101965, sits with fellow veterans Bill Draper (right), Air Force from 1951 to 1952, and Don Jones, Marine Corps from 1951 to 1953, Friday after the Memorial Day ceremony at Sycamore High School on Friday.

SYCAMORE – When Sycamore High School junior Jace Pesina looks at his school's "Freedom Isn't Free" display wall, he understands exactly what it means.

The wall is filled with pictures of former Sycamore High School students who were killed in the line of duty during World War I, World War II or the Vietnam War. Pesina, who will leave Tuesday for basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, got to meet some veterans Friday who survived in some of those wars.

"It's an honor," Pesina said. "It's not every day you get to meet someone like that. Not everyone gets to come home. They're an inspiration, to be honest."

The high school held its annual Memorial Day observance Friday. The event included veterans' displays, flags being flown at half-staff and buglers playing taps.

Sycamore resident and Marine Corps veteran Jerry Pelan organizes the Memorial Day event every year, and he also created the "Freedom Isn't Free" display. Pelan, who served in the Marines from 1959 to 1965, said the event is very special to him and the veterans.

"I've been putting a lot of time to make this thing happen," Pelan said. "It helps kids understand that freedom isn't free."

Sycamore resident Don Jones lived by that mantra every day while fighting as a Marine in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953. Jones said he enjoys sharing his military stories, including his stressful time in boot camp, with other veterans.

Jones' grandson is following in his footsteps as he will join the Marines in December.

"I didn't talk him into it," Jones said. "He just wanted to do it."

Sycamore resident Bill Draper, who served in the Air Force in 1951and 1952, said it's important to remember those who served, whether they are still alive or not.

"This is a very special time, especially as we get older," Draper said.

Steph Forsberg remembered her father's service Friday by putting pictures of him on display at the high school with a historic story of his service.

Forsberg's father, Bill Holmes, was on the SS Peter Silvester, a liberty ship, Feb. 6, 1945, when two torpedoes from a German U-boat hit the ship in the Indian Ocean.

Holmes was among 140 survivors, but more than 30 people died. Forsberg met other survivors while researching the event, and they all told her to keep the historic event alive.

"I feel like I'm doing my job," she said.

Principal Tim Carlson said the Memorial Day service wouldn't have been possible without the veterans' help.

"They probably don't get thanked enough," Carlson said. "All of us need to be appreciative."

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