Throughout the suburbs, Memorial Day ceremonies honor America’s fallen heroes

Even as Arlington Heights honored its own 59 fallen heroes for the 105th year on Memorial Day, attendees received an outside acknowledgment of how special is the village’s commemoration of those lost in action in military conflicts dating back to the Civil War.

The event’s attendance is often counted among the largest of the many that took place across the suburbs Monday.

Joining the parade and ceremony this time was California resident Kathy Strong, who chose Arlington Heights’ Memorial Park as the Illinois location in her quest to dedicate bricks in all 50 states to U.S. Army Green Beret James Moreland, killed in action in Vietnam in February 1968.

“I try to pick something I think James Moreland would have,” Strong said.

What stood out to her about Memorial Park was the bronze Eternal Flame sculpture the bricks encircle.

 
The newly placed commemorative brick for U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class James Moreland, killed in action in Vietnam in February 1968, in Arlington Heights’ Memorial Park Monday.
Eric Peterson/epeterson@dailyherald.com

The 38 locations she’s been to across the country so far have all had their own distinctive qualities, and she’s tried to dedicate as many bricks as possible in conjunction with a memorial ceremony. Arlington Heights’ on Monday stood out in that category as well.

“This is by far the biggest turnout,” Strong said.

Her dedication to a soldier she never met began at Christmas 1972, when as a 12-year-old girl, she was among the recipients of more than 5 million bracelets bearing a name of one of the thousands of Americans missing or captured in Vietnam.

She made a promise to Sgt. 1st Class James Moreland of Alabama that she would wear it until he came home.

“I always believed he’d come home,” Strong said. “I believe God answers all prayers.”

As the years went by, Strong’s loyalty to the name on her bracelet became rare. A newspaper article about her continued wearing of it brought her to the attention of Moreland’s family, who embraced her as an honorary member.

They called her immediately in February 2011 when new DNA testing on remains found in 1995 near the battlefield where he’d been lost identified the body as Moreland’s.

“I was so excited for the family,” Strong said. “It was the moment they’d been waiting for, and the closure they’d been waiting for for decades.”

Strong attended Moreland’s funeral three months later, attaching the bracelet to the left sleeve of his dress uniform just as she’d always worn it on her left wrist.

Some time after, she decided that there was still more she could do for his memory. The dedication of bricks in a few states that had some relevance to either Moreland’s family or her own evolved into the mission to do all 50 she expects to complete sometime in 2026.

Greg Padovani, chair of the Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights, said he was moved by Strong’s choice of the village for Moreland’s commemorative brick over every other memorial in Illinois.

“It’s an incredible honor,” he said. “Everybody’s said it’s a special place, but I’ve never had anyone pick us out of a lineup like that before.”

Mayor Tom Hayes agreed.

“It’s very special and reflective of how our community honors our fallen heroes.”

 
Kathy Strong of California runs her fingers along the letters of the commemorative brick for fallen Army Green Beret James Moreland, just as she did on the bracelet with his name she received when she was 12 years old and he was only known to be missing in action in Vietnam.
Eric Peterson/epeterson@dailyherald.com

Between the parade and the start of the ceremony Monday, Strong went over to Moreland’s brick to run her fingers over the letters of his name just as she said she used to do on the bracelet she gave to him 13 years ago.

Among Monday’s traditions in Arlington Heights, all the names of the village’s residents who fell in battle were read, and a list was compiled of all its veterans who’d passed away over the course of the past year.

Also taking part in the ceremony were family members of Arlington Heights’ most recent fallen serviceman — Marine Lance Cpl. James Bray Stack who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 — including his wife Katie, 14-year-old daughter Mikayla and father Bob.

Katie Stack said the annual event is an important one for her and to all who attend.

 
Kathy Strong of California, right, honoring the memory of fallen Army Green Beret James Moreland, rides alongside Gold Star Wife Katie Stack of Arlington Heights, honoring the memory of her husband U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Bray Stack who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, during Arlington Heights’ Memorial Day Parade Monday.
Eric Peterson/epeterson@dailyherald.com

“It means a lot, with everyone who comes out and honors the ones who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. “This brings our whole town together. A lot of people are fighting a battle in America and this brings people together. Greg does a wonderful job in bringing everyone together.”

Many other unifying events that occurred in the suburbs included parades or ceremonies in St. Charles, Naperville, Addison, Libertyville, Wauconda, Elmhurst, Grayslake, Mount Prospect, Itasca, Aurora, Bartlett, Elburn, Geneva, Hanover Park, Lisle, Lombard, Palatine, Mundelein, Wheaton, Cary, Barrington, Wheeling, Northbrook, Elk Grove Village, Waukegan, Batavia, Carol Stream, Crystal Lake, Des Plaines, Elgin, Glendale Heights, Huntley, Lake Zurich, Buffalo Grove, Lake Barrington, Wood Dale, West Dundee and Yorkville.

Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg conducted a linked event that began at the Hoffman Estates Veterans Memorial outside the village’s police station before moving on to an observance and picnic at the cemetery of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Schaumburg.

In Wheaton there was the Cantigny Memorial Day Remembrance at First Division Museum Military Park, where American Legion Post 556 and a number of speakers honored the traditions and customs of the solemn holiday.

 
Thirteen-year-old Max Popp of Boy Scout Troop 159 and his fellow scouts lead the way with carrying a giant flag during the Arlington Heights Memorial Day Parade Monday.
Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.com
 
Veterans from VFW Post 981 including, Rush Rowly, front to back, Bob Rokus and Frank Plimr, wave to the crowd during the Arlington Heights Memorial Day Parade Monday.
Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.com
 
Air Force Veteran Daniel Kaszuba of Elgin was one of the representatives that placed a wreath during the Elgin Memorial Day ceremony, Monday May 27, 2024.
Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.com
 
Elgin Mayor David Kaptain during the Memorial Day ceremony Monday.
Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.com
 
American Legion Post 964 member Jim Ballard readies the American flag at the start of the Memorial Day parade through downtown Lake Zurich on Monday.
Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.com
 
American Legion Post 964 members Ron Giznik, left, and Bob Warren are happy to see each other at the start of the Memorial Day parade on Monday through downtown Lake Zurich.
Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.com
 
American Legion Post 690 member Mark Thieme holds the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony Monday in Palatine’s Community Park.
Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.com
 
A Memorial Day ceremony was held Monday in Palatine’s Community Park.
Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.com

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