Ann Selma Castro tosses a wreath off the State Street Bridge during the Memorial Day Parade a few years ago.

By Anne Eickstadt


Belvidere always looks forward to the Memorial Day Parade. Unhappily, the decision was made to cancel the 2021 parade until area residents have more of an opportunity to be vaccinated should they choose to do so. Looking forward to next year’s Memorial Day!

VFW Post 1461 will still be holding a Memorial Day ceremony at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 31, which will end with a wreath being thrown from the Appleton St. Bridge by a Gold Star family member.

The ceremony might look like this:

VFW Commander Greg Kelm officiating as the master of ceremonies: “Thanksgiving is a day when we pause to give thanks for all we have. Memorial Day is a day we pause and give thanks and remember all the people who fought for all the things we have. Many paid with their very young lives.

“It is the soldier, not the minister who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

He may introduce Ann Selma Castro, a Gold Star family sister. Her brother served in the 355th Infantry in Germany. He died on Feb. 25, 1945, while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Kelm offers her the opportunity to toss a wreath commemorating all those who served their country to their final breath.

“To me it is an honor and a privilege to throw the wreath on Memorial Day,” Castro says. “To remember our loved ones who died for us to be free and for us to remember the hardships they went through for us. It is an honor to be a member of the Gold Star family. I was only ten years old when the teacher told me to go pick up a telegram. Everyone knew what a telegram meant,” she said. “I wanted to run away. My brother died in 1945. My father died on Memorial Day a year later.”

Kelm may introduce the dignitaries in attendance to honor our veterans and the Belvidere High School and Belvidere North High School bands may join together to play the US Armed Forces Medley to honor all the branches of the military.

In past Memorial Day ceremonies, Pastor Allan Buss, senior pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Belvidere, told a story of a platoon that came under attack and the point man was hit. The commanding officer ordered a retreat but one man refused to leave the point man behind. Though ordered to retreat, he made his way under fire to exchange a few words with the soldier and brought the seriously wounded man back.

“‘Was it worth it? The commanding officer barked as the wounded man died.

“‘You don’t understand,’ the grieving soldier said. ‘His final words made it worthwhile.’

“’What could he possibly have said that made it worth risking your life to hear?’

“‘When I reached him, he saw my face and said, ‘I knew you’d come.’

“Memorial Day is more than a holiday. It is more than a picnic. It is celebrated for veterans to know that they are not forgotten.”

Kelm may add, “Over 600,000 persons in the military have gone beyond the call of duty to give their all for this country. But everyone has the opportunity to go beyond the call of duty and serve the community and their church. In a day of ‘selfies’ we are called to something greater–to go beyond the call of duty as well.”

The ceremony will conclude with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember fallen warriors.

• American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783: 25,000

• War of 1812, 1812-1815: 20,000

• Mexican-American War, 1846-1848: 13,283

• American Civil War, 1861-1865: 620,000

• Spanish-American War, 1898: 2,446

• World War I, 1917-1918: 116,516

• World War II, 1939-1945: 405,399

• Korean War, 1950-1953: 36,516

• Vietnam War, 1965-1973: 58,209

• Gulf War, 1990-1991: 258

• War on Terror, 2001-present: 7,057 and counting.

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