The veterans of Wally Burns VFW Post 8077, the sponsoring organization of the annual event to honor those who gave their lives for the nation, followed the police and fire escort and the color guard in the annual parade. They, in turn, were follwed by Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld and Trustee Jay Heiferman, representing the village.
The rest of the parade included scout troops and three marching bands representing Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Parker Junior High School and James Hart School.
The H-F marching band was led by drum major Michael Colton, who has enlisted in the Army and will be starting boot camp in a week. He is headed for South Carolina. His father, Bob Colton, thought marching in the Memorial Day heat in a drum major’s uniform — the temperature was near 90 degrees when the parade began — would be good practice for what’s ahead.
“I’ve been checking the weather in South Carolina — 95 is the low,” he said. But he was undaunted by the heat, here or in the South. He told the Chronicle he’s eager to get there and get started.
The parade traveled south on Dixie Highway to Olive Road, then went west to the Veterans Memorial on Harwood Avenue.
In a change from the usual program, VFW Commander John Beele’s grandchildren and a group of local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts got the ceremony started by leading the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Members of the James Hart Orchestra then performed “God Bless America.” Fr. Daniel Jarosewic, associate pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Homewood, gave the invocation. And Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld made brief remarks.
“Memorial Day is a time to honor our war dead, those men and women who never returned home,” he said. “Today we honor their memory. Whenever we see our flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing ‘God Bless America,’ think of them.”
Beele served as master of ceremonies and told the crowd that he and his wife, Nancy, had recently visited all the war memorials in Washington, D.C.
“It’s a real look at history,” he said. “Do yourself a favor. If you get a chance, go to Washington. It’ll take your breath away.”
Beele then introduced Char Dyer, chairwoman of the Homewood Veterans Committee, who announced that new banners honoring local veterans had been ordered.
The committee sponsored a project last year that provided banners with the photo, branch of service and years of service of local veterans. The banners were attached to light poles throughout downtown Homewood. The committee was not satisfied with the banners, however, and decided to replace them.
“Our banners coming up will be new and improved, a little bit larger and better shaped than the last ones,” Dyer said. She noted that it is not too late for veterans or the families of veterans to obtain a banner. She said anyone who is interested can call Homewood Village Hall at 708-798-3000 and ask for her.
She also mentioned three veterans she wanted to honor, especially the late Jerry Brandt, who served in Vietnam and later became Homewood’s police chief for a number of years.
“He was seriously injured and suffered from malaria. He almost didn’t make it,” she said. “He was quiet about what he did, about his service. We have to honor him. We ask your support and respect for all the men and women who are the cornerstone of this country.”
Brandt’s widow, Mary, laid the wreath to honor Vietnam veterans.
The wreath honoring World War I veterans was laid by Howard Ward, a Korean War veteran and grandson of World War I veterans. Arty Perry Jr. laid the wreath in honor of World War II veterans. Donna Anfield laid the Korean War wreath. She is the widow of Dan Anfield, a Korean War veteran who died in January. Ryan Nolan placed the wreath honoring Gulf War veterans.
Veteran John Elashik helped place each wreath.