Veterans Day Ceremony Draws Large Crowd
More than 300 people attended an annual Veterans Day ceremony Thursday at Veterans Park in Naperville.
It was the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month Thursday. And Naperville stood silent.
More than 300 people — 100 of whom were veterans — lowered their heads in a moment of silence to honor the U.S. Military and Veterans Day.
"Every year there seems to be a better crowd," said Terry Jelinek, senior vice commander of the American Legion Naperville post, who was announcing for the ceremony. "But just to remind everyone, whether it's driving rain or snow, we're out here every year."
Jelinek, who served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, said record-high temperatures Thursday morning may have been part of the reason for the large turnout. He also believes the country, and Naperville, is seeing an increase in patriotism.
Naperville Mayor George Pradel said he's also noticed the growth in nationalism, especially in youth. Before the ceremony, Pradel, who served in the U.S. Marines, visited Lincoln Junior High School. He asked students who knew someone in the military to raise their hands. He said he saw more hands than he expected.
"It was awesome," Pradel said of the turnout for the Veterans' Park ceremony. "This is a wonderful tribute to our veterans throughout city and country; to have people to gather to remember those who served or are serving."
After the moment of silence, guests were led in prayer by Dick Komarek, the Naperville American Legion chaplain. Pradel joined Naperville Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Scott Holley and Jelinek in giving remarks. The ceremony finished with the sounds of Taps and a rifle salute to fallen soldiers.
The Naperville Municipal Band played patriotic songs including the official song of each military branch.
Alexey Rieser, 12, enjoyed the music — especially the tunes he knew. This was Alexey's first time at the ceremony, he said, but it wasn't the first time he's thought about U.S. veterans.
"Actually, this morning I remembered it was Veterans Day," Rieser said. "I was praying this morning, saying thank you to them for serving my country."
Lisa Gangi, of Naperville, brought her two children C.J., 9, and Mea, 7, to the ceremony. Gangi said she does not have any direct family members serving but thinks it is important to celebrate and honor veterans, especially for her children.
"The kids are at an age where they are starting to learn what they are doing," she said. "A little can go a long way."
"We're getting more and more people to come out," he said. "A lot of people may not agree with the war, but they still support the soldiers and Marines out there."
That's the reason Jack Rowe and Robert Koller, veterans of World War II, continue to attend the ceremony every year. Rowe has been to the last 10, while Koller has made the past 30.
"I come out every year to show my appreciation for those who gave their lives," Rowe said. "I just want to share my thoughts."