Home News Fallen troops honored at Rosehill Cemetery Memorial Day event

Fallen troops honored at Rosehill Cemetery Memorial Day event

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One of Danny Montcalm’s first memories of Memorial Day took place near Rosehill Cemetery.

“On Clark Street, there’s a monument to World War I veterans that my grandfather took me to when I was just 5 years old,” Montcalm said.

Now, Montcalm, 70, spends every Memorial Day just feet away, watching as a parade of local veterans groups, Cub Scouts, high school students and other organizations march past that very monument and through the gates of Rosehill Cemetery to honor America’s fallen military troops.

Montcalm, whose father and grandfather were members of the armed forces, was one of hundreds of Chicago-area veterans, current service members and other residents who gathered to watch the cemetery’s annual Memorial Day parade Monday, which was followed by a ceremony, a cannon salute and a cookout inside the cemetery.

The parade route was marked with an “Avenue of Flags” inside the cemetery’s gates, displayed for the fallen soldiers being honored at Monday’s event. The flags mark all the wars in which the U.S. fought.

Michael Weidman, a service manager at Rosehill Cemetery, said the cemetery has the largest number of Union soldiers from the Civil War buried in any private cemetery in the Midwest. That history reminds him of the gravity of Memorial Day, he said.

“We are indebted to you, we offer you our humble thanks for doing what you are able and willing to do, may you never be taken for granted,” Weidman said, addressing fallen soldiers at Monday’s ceremony.

Weidman preceded several speakers at the ceremony, including Nikki Swafford, a regent with a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She said her organization wanted to honor their ancestors’ sacrifice in the Revolutionary War at Monday’s event.

Panita Luangkesorn, right, comforts her husband, Ryan Killacky, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, after he became emotional during the annual Rosehill Memorial Day cemetery ceremony on Monday, May 27, 2024, at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. (Vincent Alban/Chicago Tribune)
Panita Luangkesorn, right, comforts her husband, Ryan Killacky, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, after he became emotional on Monday, May 27, 2024, during the annual Memorial Day ceremony at at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.  (Vincent Alban/Chicago Tribune)

Swafford has been coming to the parade for years, she said, and finds a supportive community there. Swafford marched with a sign during the parade and said Memorial Day holds a special significance to her.

“We are all descended from patriots who served in the American Revolution, and it means so much to honor their memories on this day,” Swafford said. “For me, my family has also been involved in every war since. So I honor their legacy and my entire family history today.”

Ald. Andre Vasquez, 40th, also attended Monday’s parade and ceremony. Vasquez thanked event organizers for their efforts to recognize veterans and fallen soldiers.

He said walking around the cemetery and passing the graves of people who died in the Civil War reminded him of what the nation has overcome, and of his goals as a local leader.

“I’m reminded that although at times we are not the most perfect union, we are a union nonetheless,” Vasquez said. “We afforded this rare ability to build community in no small part to those who have fought and died defending the values we aim to achieve.”

Vasquez encouraged attendees to honor veterans who returned this Memorial Day.

A member of the National Women Veterans United high-fives people watching the Beverly/Morgan Park Memorial Day parade on May 27, 2024. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)
A member of National Women Veterans United high-fives people watching the Beverly/Morgan Park Memorial Day parade on May 27, 2024. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)

Ryan Killacky, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, had tears in his eyes throughout Monday’s ceremony. He said the day was incredibly emotional for him because he lost two teammates while deployed in 2009.

Killacky and his wife, Panita Luangkesorn, have been active in the American Legion, and have often volunteered at Rosehill’s Memorial Day event. The pair said they wanted to come out and enjoy it this year instead.

“It’s important to have remembrance activities like this,” Luangkesorn said, “But it’s important to recognize that people have to do this remembrance every day on their own. I want to encourage people to be kind, especially to veterans. You never know what they’re going through, or where they are in the healing process.”



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