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Waukegan parade, ceremony honor protectors of us all

Waukegan Veterans Day Parade traveled from Genesee Grthrough WashingtWest streets ending Veterans Memorial honoring all our brothers sisters thhave served

Waukegan Veterans Day Parade traveled from Genesee and Grand through Washington and West streets ending at the Veterans Memorial honoring all of our brothers and sisters that have served our country. | Mark Ukena~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:14AM

Washington Street provided perfect acoustics Sunday morning as both the Waukegan High School marching band and Starlifter, a classic-rock combo from the U.S. Air Force’s Band of Mid-America, set the tone for Veterans Day 2012.

A procession that included Waukegan High School’s Jr. ROTC Bulldog Regiment led a crowd of more than 500 people to Veterans Memorial Plaza, where speakers asked that everyone remember the sacrifices made to defend the U.S.

“On this Veterans Day, I encourage all Americans to take the actions in their communities to support and honor all veterans — young and old, the fallen, wounded and missing, and those still serving today in defense of our nation and freedom,” said the event’s keynote speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard K. Johnson, who serves with the U.S. Army Cadet Command at Naval Station Great Lakes.

“We must honor the sacrifices of all veterans and remember those who are no longer with us,” added Johnson, a veteran of both Iraq wars and Bronze Star recipient. “As a nation, we must remain committed to ensuring these service members and veterans remain strong for life.”

Offering an invocation at the start of the 20-minute ceremony, John Davis, chaplain of American Legion Post 281, asked the gathering to remember all who paid “a sacrifice for a better world for this and other generations yet unborn.”

“Grant us, oh Lord, the courage to so live with the family of nations around the world that the end of strife will be the beginning of enduring peace,” added Davis. “Grant us patience in planning with our fellow men and women a world in which nations may resolve their differences by peaceful means.”

Remembering an earlier generation of soldiers, Mayor Robert Sabonjian told the crowd that his wife, Jo-An Takamoto Sabonjian, was in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday to honor her father, World War II combat veteran John Takamoto.

“(He) was a part of the world-famous Nisei Brigade that fought for the United States,” said Sabonjian, referring to the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team. “These were all Japanese-American soldiers who volunteered to fight and went to Europe (and) took over 70 percent casualties during the time that they served.”

Sabonjian added that “the thing that makes (them) so unique” is that many of the men, including Takamoto, served while family members were held in stateside interment camps.

“They loved their country so much that they were willing to leave their families and engage the enemy in Europe and show great leadership and heroism,” Sabonjian said. “Her father was wounded while attacking a machine-gun nest and he earned the Silver Star in doing so. He was a great warrior, but he’s one of millions of warriors across this county whose names we’ve never heard before.”

A younger generation of veterans was represented by Army Sgt. 1st Class Matt Burleson, a Waukegan Fire Department paramedic who served in Afghanistan. He reminded the crowd that Waukegan still has an active Veterans of Foreign Wars post that is open to new members.

“When I tell people I’m with the Waukegan VFW, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh, Waukegan’s got a VFW?” Burleson said. “And I say, ‘Yeah, we’re on Grand Avenue.’ The next thing they say is, ‘Oh, those guys with the tanks by the Avalon?’ No, we’re in Waukegan, that’s Gurnee.”

Burleson added that VFW post 1293’s ongoing efforts include hospitality nights for seniors and two scholarship programs for high school and middle school students.

“We’re just proud members of the community,” said Burleson, “and we want to make sure that people take care of the vets, and we take care of each other.”

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