Memorial Day Tribute

By Kathryn Menue


BELVIDERE – On Wednesday, May 25, The Hospice Veteran Partnership of Northern Illinois, including Heartland Hospice, JourneyCare, Northern Illinois Hospice, Serenity Hospice and Home, and Vitas Healthcare, sponsored a Memorial Day Tribute at VFW Post 1461, located at 1310 W. Lincoln Ave. in Belvidere.

The event began at 2 p.m. and as guests walked into the VFW they were able to pick up paper poppies made by local students and were able to write a card in remembrance of a loved one who served in the U.S. military.

As the crowd of about 50 people walked into the VFW, patriotic music greeted them with the sounds of God Bless the USA and Born in the USA.

The ceremony officially began with the honor guard leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by Danielle Marin of Northern Illinois Hospice singing the national anthem.

Afterward, Dawn Vander Kolk of Northern Illinois Hospice thanked the crowd for coming.

“As a member of this group, we thank you all for coming in remembering all of those who served,” Vander Kolk said, before welcoming speaker, VFW Post 1461 Commander Greg Kelm.

Commander Kelm served in the Vietnam War from 1970 to 1971 as a medic in the 101st Air born. He said Vietnman was the first war where medics were armed. Their duty was to treat and evacuate soldiers. If soldiers were treated and evacuated within the first 48 hours, there was a 98 percent survival rate.

Memorial Day is dedicated to those who did not make it through war.

Memorial Day Tribute 2“Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in battle and after battle. Veterans Day honors all of the military who served this great nation.”

Since the Revolutionary War, the U.S. has been involved in 74 wars, “some small, and others lasting years.”

According to Kelm, 116,512 soldiers were lost in WWI, 405,399 lost in WWII, 36,515 lost in Korea, and 58,815 lost in Vietnam.

However, even the military personnel who made it through war still lost something.

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers,” Kelm said.

Soldiers weren’t the only ones wounded by war either.

“Losing someone is a grief that just doesn’t go away,” Kelm said. He showed a white flag, with red trim and a blue star in the middle that people would hang in times of war if they had a loved one serving. If the star in the middle was gold, it represented they had suffered a great loss from the war.

One woman in the crowd, Marilyn White, had suffered such a loss when she lost her brother, Robert in WWII.

“As hard as it is when someone is killed, there is finality,” Kelm said, but indicated there were also families left in “constant torture” from receiving the news their loved one was Missing in Action (MIA).

“Thanks to Ronald Reagan in 1980, he set a task force to comb the world…looking for remains of our great heroes who did not return home,” Kelm said.

This task force has helped bring closure to families who were left to wonder what happened to their missing loved ones.

Memorial Day is a day we can honor all of those who were lost in the wars.

“Thanksgiving is a day when we pause to give thanks for the things we have,” Kelm said. “Memorial Day or Veterans Day is a day when we pause to give thanks to the people who fought for the things we have.”

Kelm recalled the poem, “It is a Soldier” by Charles M. Province that explains that all of the freedoms of our country come from the soldiers who fought for those freedoms and continue to fight for our country. (To read the full poem, visit:

The poem outlines why it is important to honor veterans.

Kelm said, one of the VFW honored guards said “A country that does not honor its war day is a country not worth fighting for.”

The reason to give thanks to our veterans is because they have given so much for us.

For example, Commander Kelm told the story of Dan Bullock who served in the Vietnam War at the age of 14. Because of his service, VFW Post 1461 has a blood, red brick in their Memorial Garden dedicated to him.

“We must never, never, never forget what these men and women have done for us,” Kelm said.

To show a dedication to the lost veterans, Kelm performed the Missing Man Ceremony.

The ceremony features a small table symbolizing the frailty of prisoners of war.

It has six empty chairs: one for Marines, one for Coast Guard, one for the Army, one for Navy, one for the Air force, and one for civilians.

It is a round table displaying everlasting concern for the veterans.

The table dons a white table cloth representing purity of motives and the willingness to answer the call of action.

There is a red rose in the middle of the table for lives of the Americans to keep faith and to still seek answers.

A yellow ribbon is on the table to show the concern for the people.

A slice of lemon on the table shows the bitter fate of those captured in war.

Salt represents all the tears that have been shed by the soldiers’ families.

A candle commemorates the hope for all to be returned dead or alive.

The inverted glass symbolizes the inability of soldiers to share a toast with civilians left behind.

With the ceremony complete, Janine Idstein of the hospice partnership thanked everyone for coming and introduced the Belvidere High School choir who sang all of the branch songs.

Afterward, the Colored Guard conducted the 21Gun Salute and played taps.

As the Memorial Day Tribute came to an end, attendants enjoyed America’s favorite: apple pie and vanilla ice cream set to the sweet patriotic music of the BHS choir.

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