ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Brig. Gen. Richard W. Corner II, Commanding General, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, delivered keynote speeches during two Chicago area Memorial Day ceremonies on May 29-30, 2022.
The Village of Norridge’s 29th annual Veterans Memorial Day observance on Sunday honored fallen Soldiers and Gold Star families.
“Memorial Day is a day of national awareness and solemn reverence; a day for us to honor the military men and women who gave their lives in defense of our nation, its values and our freedom,” said Corner.
He further encouraged attendees to honor Gold Star families whose servicemembers were killed in action.
“Today, we continue to honor those left behind, those who paid a very personal price for us and our nation, our Gold Star families,” said Corner, who asked Gold Star family members in the audience to stand for recognition.
Corner then honored Vietnam War veterans by speaking about their valiant efforts during the war.
“One of the first nurses to be killed in action in Vietnam was Second Lt. Carol Ann Drazba, originally from Dunmore, Pennsylvania. She and another nurse, Second Lt. Elizabeth Jones, were killed on February 18, 1966, when their helicopter crashed,” said Corner.
Servicemembers from the Army, Marines and 65 recruits from the Navy Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois also participated in the ceremony. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Stephen Hux, Recruit Band Director at NRTC Great Lakes, spoke about his military service.
“I feel very honored and privileged to serve in the U.S. Navy,” said the 15-year veteran. “I feel a sense of humility to be a part of this occasion, to honor the sacrifices of those who served this nation.”
Towards the conclusion of the ceremony, various families and organizations laid wreaths to honor the fallen while Navy recruits helped carry the wreaths to the memorial wall. The wreath dedication service concluded with the family of Marine Cpl. Donald W. Bollman, laying a wreath at the Norridge Vietnam War memorial. He enlisted with his brothers in 1965 and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor following his death in 1967.
The following day, Corner and Sgt. Maj. Dennis Koski, G3/Operations sergeant major for the 85th USARSC, participated in the Arlington Heights Memorial Day parade and ceremony. Gregg Padovani, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights, recalled his most significant memories of Memorial Day during an honoring of the sons of Gold Star families.
“Their sons will never be forgotten, and you can see the tears in their eyes,” said Padovani. “The whole town, the thousands of people who are there at the time, will stand up and clap and hold up the ‘Arlington Remembers' signs. You can’t really understand that until you see it and experience it.”
Corner, and Koski waved to the crowds as they passed by in an Army-style jeep. The 103rd Annual Memorial Day ceremony was held at the end of the parade location in Memorial Park. Veterans, Gold Star Family members and citizens gathered to hear the speakers deliver their Memorial Day messages. Corner’s speech focused on the hope that fallen servicemembers’ deaths gave to the nation.
“The service members, and heroes that we celebrate today gave their lives not as part of a war of conquest or aggression, but in bringing the hope of a better life to those they sought to help,” said Corner. “We must celebrate their courage, honor and integrity on this day.”
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes, West Point graduate and former Army Reserve officer, said Arlington Heights honors veterans year-round not just on Memorial Day.
“We do this throughout the year in many different ways in a lot of events that we have in our community, sponsored by our Veterans Memorial Committee,” said Hayes.
A bell tolling was conducted for fallen servicemembers towards the end of the ceremony. The bell was tolled by Bob Stack, Arlington Heights resident and father of Marine Lance Cpl. James Stack, who was killed in action on Nov. 10, 2010, in Sangin, Afghanistan. Katie Stack, wife of James Stack, spoke about the impact of becoming a Gold Star wife.
“At every Gold Star family’s house, there is an empty seat at a dinner table,” said Stack. “There is a laugh and love that is missing. There is a hole that will never be filled. On this Memorial Day, my one request is that when you view the names and faces of these fallen men and women at Memorial Park, I challenge you to approach with a heart of recognition and gratitude and say, ‘thank you.’”