Updated 12/14/12 – 12:13 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Starting at 9:11 a.m., volunteers have been reading the names of the American men and women who have been killed while serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a ceremony outside the Thompson Center.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports the list is so long, organizers expect the ceremony to last 10 to 12 hours, as each name is read one at a time.
Organizer Laurie Ipsen enlisted more than 60 readers, including Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren, Ald. James Balcer (11th), and dozens of Gold Star Families parents who lost sons and daughters in the Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ipsen, a restaurant manager, worked 10 months with English teacher Christopher DePhillips to organize the memorial for the Americans killed overseas since the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.
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They went to war, and never returned home to their families.
To us, they’re names, but to the mothers and fathers who raised them, life has never been the same since they were killed.
“Oh no, we never forget,” said Jim Frazier, whose son, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Lee Frazier was killed in Afghanistan on March 29, 2003; he was the first Illinois national guardsman to die after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
“I will certainly be thinking how much I miss him. He would have been 34 years old just a couple of weeks ago, and I wonder what would he and I be doing together today,” his father said. “The pain never goes away.”
More than 6,600 fallen service members were being remembered at the ceremony Friday on the busy plaza outside the Thompson Center.
“Everybody that walks is gonna catch a little bit of it,” Frazier said. “That keeps that spirit alive!”
It has been nine years since the grieving father dedicated his whole life and career to supporting fellow military families
“I can’t do anything for my son, but I can sure do something for his buddies, and his buddies’ families,” Frazier said.
The governor was the first to begin reading names, and highlighted the importance of the event.
“We all learned that on September 11th of 2001, how important it was to have men and women, from our state and from every state, answer the call to duty, go to very far-away places and dangerous places, indeed to go to the gates of hell to defend our democracy,” Quinn said.
Balcer, a U.S. Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, said these aren’t just names, they are people who sacrificed everything to defend their nation.
“America owes a debt of gratitude to the men and women that have served our nation, and especially those who have given the supreme sacrifice, and on this day we remember the end of the war in Iraq, and we also honor those who died,” Balcer said.
A parade honoring veterans and active duty members of the military was also scheduled for noon Saturday on Columbus Drive, between Balbo and Monroe. CBS 2’s Bill Kurtis will be the master of ceremonies.