Alfred R.S. Bailey. His is the first name on Evanston’s military Memorial Wall at Fountain Square. Bailey died in the Civil War.
Lee Owens White, Jr.’s name is last on the wall. White was killed in Vietnam. In between Bailey and White are the names of several hundred other Evanstonians, in alphabetical order by war from 1861 through 1973, who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Today, in the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Fountain Square, Evanston remembered its fallen heroes, and the one million other Americans who were killed in the nation’s wars.
“War is not always the best policy,” Cmdr. Wilfredo Candelario, of Evanston American Legion Post 42 told the crowd. “But the heroes who gave their lives are the best of America.”
Post 42 and local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7186 sponsored the observance, as they do every year. Post 7186, named for Tech. Sgt. William B. Snell, who was killed in World War II, is also celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Kenneth Doss, VFW Post chaplain and Vietnam veteran, told Evanston Now that “a veteran knows what this day is all about. To memorialize those who died on the battlefield.”
When asked if he had Army colleagues who never made it back from combat, he replied “oh yeah.” Doss, 74, comes to the Memorial Day event every year.
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, an Air Force veteran, was a guest speaker. Suffredin, who was given a plaque by the VFW Ladies’ Auxiliary in honor of his service to local veterans, told those at the Square that Memorial Day is “not meant to be maudlin, but rather is to remember our heroes.”
Mayor Daniel Biss said the sacrifice made by the fallen “obligates us to do what we can to support freedom and the cause of justice” that they died for.
There was an unexpected departure from the tone of the day, from one of the speakers, Cmdr. Hal Shanafield, of the North Suburban Chapter of Viet Now.
Condemning both urban looters in Chicago and insurrectionist rioters at the U.S. Capitol, Shanafield said “I have lost some faith in this nation.” Referring to the Memorial Wall, he also said “as I look at the names behind me, would they think that their sacrifice was worth it?”
But that was clearly a minority point of view at the ceremony, based on what was said publicly. Greg Lisinski, of Legion Post 42, was the master of ceremonies. Lisinski said “even when times are difficult,” the values we as Americans hold dear are “written in the blood and sacrifice” of those whose names are on the Wall.
The observance also included a “calling of the veterans,” where members of the crowd who had served in the military, including recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. were asked to stand. The largest number were Vietnam vets. The oldest, and only one from the conflict where he served, was 92-year old Evanston native Adam Kwiecinski.
Kwiecinski fought in the Korean War and was involved in the bloody battle for the Pusan Peninsula.
The Army veteran sat next to his wife of 67 years, Winifred.
“I’m glad to be here,” Kwiecinski said. “It feels good.”