Sacrifice and honor upheld at Sauk Valley Memorial Day observances

Wilbur Wildman provides instruction to honor guard taking part in the Memorial Day ceremony along the Rock River on Monday, May 29, 2023.

Tradition held sway in Memorial Day observances Monday in the Sauk Valley.

Veterans, family members and patriotic civilians took part in ceremonies along the Rock River and at cemeteries to honor departed service members.

Others gathered at American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls to share stories and support one another.

At Lower Dam Park in Rock Falls, an honor guard comprised of Rock Falls Legion Post 902, Rock Falls Falls VFW 5418 and Sterling Legion Post 296 provided a 21-gun salute while family and friends leaned across the iron railing and tossed flowers into the fast-flowing river.

Citizen soldiers were the focus at Grandon Civic Center in Sterling, where more than 120 people gathered under shade trees and in the sun-soaked bleachers for a ceremony organized by Legion Post 296. Several Sterling council members and Mayor Diana Merdian attended.

Michelle Henderson, a junior at Sterling High School, read the general orders of John A. Logan, now recognized as establishing Decoration Day — the predecessor of Memorial Day – after the Civil War. Logan served with both the First Illinois Volunteer Infantry and the 31st Illinois.

Then Illinois National Guard Specialist James Hartwig of DeKalb, who is serving as a cavalry scout with B-Troop 2/106 Cavalry Unit in Dixon, shared stories of bravery and sacrifice by Illinois National Guard members through the years as a “vivid reminder of the price paid for our freedom.”

Karen Cowley of the Legion’s auxiliary placed a memorial wreath and Annette Hackbarth provided the playing of taps.

In Dixon, Dixon VFW Post 450 and American Legion Post 12 took part in a wreath-laying ceremony along the Rock River shore, with the Dixon Area 76 Marine Corps League detachment providing a 21-gun salute. A parade that included the Dixon Municipal Band traveled to Oakwood Cemetery for a ceremony. Charlie Thomas Sr. provided the remarks.

There also was an observance at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens and Cemetery in Dixon and open houses at the city’s VFW and Legion headquarters.

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Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.