Residents gather at the Homewood Veterans Memorial, left, to watch the combined James Hart and Parker Junior High bands stand to take a bow after performing a number of patriotic songs at the Homewood Memorial Day ceremony on May 29. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Feature, Local News

Sunshine and patriotic music highlight Homewood Memorial Day ceremony

Summer weather greeted throngs of area residents who came to the Homewood Veterans Memorial park on Harwood Avenue Monday, May 29, to honor those who lost their lives in service to the nation.

Residents gather at the Homewood Veterans Memorial, left, to watch the combined James Hart and Parker Junior High bands stand to take a bow after performing a number of patriotic songs at the Homewood Memorial Day ceremony on May 29. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Residents gather at the Homewood Veterans Memorial, left, to watch the combined James Hart and Parker Junior High bands stand to take a bow after performing a number of patriotic songs at the Homewood Memorial Day ceremony on May 29. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The Wally Burns VFW Post 8077 members followed their tradition of marking the occasion by placing wreaths to honor the veterans of the conflicts in the 20th and early 21st centuries and by bringing together four school music ensembles to perform patriotic songs. Fr. Ron Kondziolka of St. Veronica Catholic Church offered an opening prayer. 

Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld and Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson were invited to give brief remarks.

“The men and women we honor here today were just like you and I,” Hofeld said. “They were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends. Their lives were taken in faraway places. We are here today to remember them.”

Although the event took place in Homewood, VFW Post Commander John Beele said he invited Nelson to speak because the villages are so close.

“Homewood and Flossmoor are divided by a hyphen. Two great communities,” he said.

Nelson paid tribute to the families of those who died in the service. 

“I want to acknowledge family members and friends of people who died for our freedom,” she said. “They paid the ultimate price with their life, and you have too. I hope events like today bring you comfort and peace.” 

She also thanked all the young people who contributed to the ceremony. 

“You are such an incredible part of the Homewood and Flossmoor communities. You bring us joy, and we are so proud of you,” she said.

James Hart School band director Matt Johnson served as announcer for the performances of the combined James Hart and Parker Junior High Schools. He started by thanking some of those responsible for the event, including groundskeepers, his colleagues in District 153 and 161 and members of the VFW post, led by Beele.

“We want to thank Mr. Beele for his years of dedication to putting on outstanding Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs for all of our heroes in the community,” he said.

The band played variations on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which Johnson explained was based on a drinking song, “Johnny Fill Up the Bowl,” until Patrick Gilmore added the patriotic lyrics and changed the name during the Civil War.

Parker Band Director Elana Reid took the conducting duties for “Liberty March.” 

The band then performed “America the Beautiful” and “Marches of the Armed Forces,” which quotes from the theme song of each branch of the U.S. military. Johnson noted that the bands  haven’t yet learned the song for the newest branch of the service, the Space Force but hope to perform it at next year’s ceremony.

The combined band concluded its program with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” conducted District 161 Band Director Ben Clark.

Sara White, James Hart orchestra teacher, then conducted a string ensemble in a performance of “America the Beautiful.”

The event came to a close with patriotic music by the Homewood-Flossmoor High School marching band.

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