CHICAGO (WBBM) – It is a longstanding tradition on this day: a service and wreath-laying at the statue of Civil War General John Logan, the founder of Decoration Day, which became Memorial Day.
One of the leaders of the wreath-laying ceremony was retired Maj. Gen. John Borling of the Air Force, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam – and has dealt with the loss of comrades.
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“One of the things you learn when you spend some time as a POW – about six-and-a-half years – you learn to build walls. And you don’t climb over those walls into the … real world when you have to deal with subjects like loss of friends and comrades,” Borling said. “So there’s a certain sense of … regard and respect and I like to use the word ‘contemplative’ nature of the moment.”
“It’s not for barbecues, it’s for decoration of the people lost in all the wars, and all the people across all this land,” said J.R. Davis, chairman of the Chicago Cultural Mile Association.
Since last Memorial Day, 23 Illinois residents have died serving their country. On Monday, all 23 names were read out loud.
As CBS 2′s Jim Williams reports, for the first time at this ceremony, tribute was paid men and women serving on the police and fire departments. Former Chicago Supt. Jody Weis spoke on their behalf.
“A lot of the things we take for granted are only available to us because of the service, the sacrifice and dedication of the men and women who wear uniforms,” Weis said.
About 200 people attended the ceremony and wreath-laying at Grant Park, to honor Logan and the men and women who have died in service to their nation.
Besides founding Decoration Day, Borling says Logan helped start the Grand Army of the Republic, which was a fraternal organization of veterans of the Union Army who served in the Civil War.