These days when the Naperville Community Concert Center in Central Park opens its folding door on Memorial Day, the park benches quickly are filled at 12:15PM with appreciative citizens, Gold Star families, veterans and Color Guards representing all branches of the Armed Forces in the United States.
For many years, the 30-minute program with patriotic music recognizing all the Armed Forces has followed the Memorial Day Parade as a solemn tribute to military men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.
Organized by the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 and the American Legion Post 43, the observance always includes brief and prayerful remembrances, including some light-hearted moments, as well as tributes by the Grand Marshall of the Memorial Day Parade.
This year, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Allen James Lynch served as the Parade Grand Marshall. Lynch provided the thoughts for the day. The Army hero who served in Vietnam said he had attended many Memorial Day Parades, none of which attracted as many citizens as Naperville’s. He commended parents for bringing their children to the parade and for teaching their children to stand respectfully when the veterans walked by them.
Lynch is featured in the book, Medal of Honor, Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, for his service in the U.S. Army. According to a promotion for the book, since the Civil War more than 39 million men and women have served the United States Armed Forces. Of those individuals, “3,440 served with such uncommon valor and and extraordinary courage that they were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. Each of their heroic actions is as unique as the person who performed it.”
Lynch who served active duty from November 1964 to April 1969 was recognized for distinguishing himself by pulling men to safety during heavy fighting on the battlefield in Vietnam.
Today Lynch, a resident of Gurnee, Ill., also is recognized for more than 30 years of service in Veterans Affairs.
Special recognition was given to Edwin Kane, Officer of the Day; and Retired Naperville Police Chief David Dial who served as Parade Marshall. As Master of Ceremonies, Jack Shiffler recognized Dial with much appreciation as an Army veteran and for his 22 years with the Naperville Police Department.
Shiffler recalled 22 years ago when the then-new Chief Dial had given the tributes for the Memorial Day Observance. In complete jest, Shiffler said Dial had not been asked to speak at the program again until that day, May 28.
Another special recognition was presented to Dominique Martucci, owner of Naper Nuts and Sweets. Martucci was honored with a medal for her contributions to military men and women via Operation Caramel Corn, an initiative that originates from downtown Naperville to help the troops with challenges of separation from family and friends while overseas. Between Feb. 1, 2003, and May 1, 2012, Naper Nuts and Sweets packaged and sent 84,000 bags of caramel corn to the troops in care packages. For her “unwavering dedication,” she was presented with a Commander’s Public Service Award, the fourth highest honor the United States Department of the Army can bestow upon a civilian.
When she accepted the medal, a tearful, joyful Martucci mentioned her father’s service in the U.S. Marines. She expressed gratitude for her faith and love for God as well as for all the armed forces “serving to fight for all of us.”
Students from the Crone Middle School Chorus performed two songs with thoughtful lyrics that fit the occasion of Memorial Day.
The Highland Bagpipers performed “Amazing Grace” and the Naperville Municipal Band played along in harmony. Wreaths were laid at the Blackhawk War Monument located in Central Park. A 21-gun salute was followed by Taps.
The Memorial Day Observance in Central Park will be held at the same time in 2013, immediately following the parade.
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RELATED STORIES: Memorial Day Parade