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Dan Moran: Echoes from the past

Updated: December 11, 2012 6:06AM



Veterans Day parades are often held in defiance of the calendar and the weather, with crowds of people assembling on a weekday morning while a trademark cold November wind cuts through their jackets.

The classic example of this would have to be Veterans Day 2004, when the temperature in downtown Waukegan struggled to reach 40 degrees and a sustained 20 mph wind with gusts up to 35 mph came straight off the Big Lake.

I can still see determined parade-watchers ducking into doorways and around the corners of buildings to stay out of the chill. The members of the Waukegan High School Jr. ROTC Bulldog Regiment, without topcoats to put over their uniforms, stamped their feet at all times to keep their blood flowing.

For 2012, the 11th day of the 11th month falls nicely on a Sunday, and if the forecasters are to be trusted, it looks like the 11th hour will be windy, but warmer than the 50-degree average for the date.

In other words, the stage is set more agreeably than usual for the public to join ceremonies in Antioch, Deerfield, Grayslake, Gurnee, Highland Park, Fox Lake and Lindenhurst, among other communities in Lake County that have formal events on the schedule.

In Waukegan, the aforementioned annual Veterans Day Parade will step off from Grand Avenue and Genesee Street at 10:30 a.m., proceeding south to Washington Street and then east to Veterans Memorial Plaza at West Street. The ravine will echo with the sounds of a rifle salute at 11:11 a.m., and words will be offered by dignitaries and guests that include Command Sgt. Maj. Richard K. Johnson.

The city sent out Johnson’s resume this week, and it is as long as the proverbial arm.

After enlisting in October 1987 — which, for all you young people out there, was when Wall Street was hit with Black Monday, Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination was rejected by the Senate and Jessica McClure fell down a well in Texas — Johnson has served as a tank gunner and a tank commander, and his deployments include service in operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

Also on the subject of those who served, last month’s News-Sun story about local participation in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project prompted a few different responses from readers, including one from Dave Emanuelson of Pleasant Prairie, Wis., who read the story and reflected on his father.

“Our World War II vets deserve our attention and respect,” he wrote via email.

“My father was in World War II, and through the years, I was never able to get him to talk about it. He only mentioned that he walked into a concentration camp near the end of the war, and said he saw things that were beyond words. That was all I could get out of him.”

With this in mind, Emanuelson recommended “Memorial Day,” an independent film released last year starring longtime character actor James Cromwell (an Oscar nominee for “Babe” in 1995).

The plot centers on a young soldier who recalls the time he found his grandfather’s World War II footlocker, and how his grandfather agreed to tell him the stories behind any three items he pulled out.

“Although there was some ‘B’-level acting, the majority of the movie was well done,” Emanuelson wrote.

“A grandson of a World War II vet was able to get his grandfather to share his experiences of his time in (the war), then draws on those learning experiences during his time in Afghanistan. It was an honorable movie.”

He then added a sentiment for all of us to keep in mind, this weekend and all others: “It makes me wish I could have gotten my father to speak more of the war before he passed away five years ago.”



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