WASHINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Hundreds of central Illinoisans gathered Monday in Washington Square for the city’s annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony.
It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
After a vibrant parade of fire trucks, vintage cars, and veterans, the crowd made its way to Glendale Cemetery for a somber ceremony, with speakers paying tribute to those who died for their country.
“We’re here to commemorate veterans who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice and they’re not around to tell their story, so we tell their story for them,” said Dan Semlow, one of the speakers and commander of VFW Walker Danforth Post 9016 in Washington.
Washington Mayor Gary Manier said it was great to see so many people turn out after having to cancel the parade and ceremony last year. He estimated “a couple thousand” were on the parade route and 600 people at the ceremony.
“I think it means we’re healing [and] coming out of the pandemic. The more and more people get vaccinated, we’re going to see more and more outdoor activities,” he said.
The ceremony kicked off with the Posting of the Colors by the Washington Police Department Honor Guard, followed by the National Anthem.
Jim Talaska, commander of American Legion Post 100 in Washington, said he appreciated the community support.
“It’s great that the community always comes out and supports the veterans, and its great after COVID to be able to come back and group together and celebrate our veterans,” Talaska said.
Col. Dan McDonough, commander of 182nd Airlift Wing in the Peoria Air National Guard, said he was pleased with the turnout, and the respect for the fallen.
“Having served for as long as I have, we’ve seen the nation change from the post-Vietnam era … Folks that were maybe not received as well as they could have been, to certainly the veterans of today are treated very well, and I think the nation has learned and they come out to support the veterans and those who ultimately sacrificed for the country,” he said.
Semlow said its important to differentiate between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
“Memorial Day is about veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and then in November, Veterans Day is for anyone that’s served. So just remember the difference between Memorial and Veterans Day,” he said.