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Thousands pay Memorial Day respects at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

The relatives soldiers who died service their country place commemorative wreath during Memorial Day service Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. |

The relatives of soldiers who died in the service of their country place a commemorative wreath during the Memorial Day service at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 28, 2014 6:22AM



Old Glory solemnly hung at half-staff, quiet and still. People shuddered as guns exploded during the rifle salute. They wept as Tom Day and Ed Crobie played “Echo Taps.”

Traffic moved peacefully as thousands of people made the trek to Elwood’s Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on Monday for the annual Memorial Day ceremony.

People searched headstones in scorching sun, looking for a number. Joe Lowell took his son, Jacob, 2, to section 10, site 1277. That’s where Joe’s brother is buried, Army Pfc. Jacob Lowell, who served in Afghanistan.

“I named (my son) after Jake, my brother,” he said. “It’s good that we can visit him whenever.”

Lowell is from New Lenox. However, parked cars revealed license plates from states such as Pennsylvania and New York.

Tom Tallman came from Tinley Park. Every year he volunteers at the ceremony.

“I’m a civilian,” Tallman said. “It’s my turn to serve now.”

Another visitor, John Bretz, came from Aurora. He visits the graves of his father, who served in Korea, and uncle, who served in World War II.

“It’s a great place, really nice,” he said. “I’ll come out three to four times a year ... just to pay tribute.”

Before the morning ceremony, the Joliet American Legion Band performed along with Elwood and Coal City grade school children. Cemetery director Peter Young introduced the John Whiteside Ceremonial Color Guard. Kevin Johnson belted out the national anthem as families hugged each other.

“Please hold our service men and women in your strong arms,” Dennis Mitzner prayed during the invocation.

As the flag raised, Nick Thomas, Mike and Ann Zafran and Megan Goolsby sang “America the Beautiful.” Max and Donna Daniels re-enacted the roles of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Deputy Under Secretary for Management Thomas Muir gave the address.

Not everyone listened to the presentation, though. Many continued counting the rows, looking for graves, remembering their loved ones. Volunteers in vans, trucks and carts moved shuttled people around the cemetery. Many service personnel wore uniforms despite the heat.

As thousands of people wound their way through the 982-acre cemetery, the masses were somber. Volunteers were everywhere to direct traffic and answer questions. Regardless of the roles, volunteer, visitor, military or friend, people demonstrated respect to honor those who served.



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