For Matthew “Fritz” Mihelcic, Monday was not about dwelling on the sorrow caused by the men and women who died while serving in the military, but for honoring their sacrifices while moving forward.
Mihelcic, commander with the Illinois Veterans of Foreign Wars, spoke to a crowd gathered on the lawn of Elwood House on Monday as part of DeKalb's Memorial Day services.
“There should be no regrets about the people we are honoring, those who have gone before us,” Mihelcic said.
Similar scenes played out across the country, as communities marked Memorial Day by paying tribute to service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. In DeKalb, Sycamore and places throughout DeKalb County, residents listened to messages of patriotism and respecting those who gave their lives for America's freedom.
Paulette Lindgren nearly started to cry on the lawn of Elwood house while looking at pictures of military members who died during service. Lindgren, of Cortland, said looking at the faces of those men and women brought back memories of when her former husband served in the army in Vietnam for 13 months.
“Everyday I was afraid to laugh,” Lindgren said. “You were always afraid if you were enjoying something, you would get a telegraph.”
Lt. Col. Christopher Clay, speaking at a special service Monday morning at Joiner Cemetery west of Sycamore, reminded people not to forget the burden that service members' families bear. Clay served from 2002 to 2003 in Kosovo, 2003 to 2004 in Iraq and 2006 to 2007 in Afghanistan.
“Every service member knows of the possible sacrifice and takes the risk freely,” Clay said. “But I think we fail to realize that as we send our soldier, sailors, airmen and marines off to war that they always leave a family behind.”
At the Sycamore Veterans Home, World War II veteran Howard Warber remembered his brother, Donald, who was killed in action while both were deployed. At the time, Howard was 21 and deployed to England, while 19-year-old Donald was in Belgium.
“It's hard,” Warber said. “He and I were the only two children.”
Every year, Warber decorates his brother's and mother's graves, which are side-by-side in Sycamore's Elmwood Cemetery.
A parade to Elmwood Cemetery followed the service at the Sycamore Veterans Home. There, a crowd gathered for a ceremony with commanders from area veteran organizations. Among the rituals was a flag folding ceremony performed by local Boy Scouts, including 11-year-old Justin Blanken of Sycamore.
“It made me think of everybody who risked their lives for us,” said Blanken, whose grandfathers served in Vietnam.
Steve Waltz, a Vietnam veteran and commander of United Veterans Post No. 1, asked that the sentiments from the day be carried throughout the year.
“Let us honor them always and not just on Memorial Day,” Waltz said.