If you weren’t at the Memorial Day commemoration ceremony Monday at Courthouse Park, you missed a terrific homage to those who have lived and sometimes died in service to their country. That country, by the way, is you and I.
President John F. Kennedy is remembered for having said during his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The people honored Monday certainly answered that question in the affirmative.
The ceremony could not have happened without the Boy Scouts, who put up the Avenue of Flags, set up and put away the folding chairs, and policed the area to make sure the park was left in good order.
A nice touch this year was Lana Tolmachoff of Floral Fantasy handing out 250 beautiful long-stemmed roses to family members of veterans. I happened to be given one, and took it home to Mrs. Doud, who pronounced it one of the most beautiful red roses she had seen ... even though I had done my best to wilt it by leaving it in the car while I did some grocery shopping.
The people of this city, by the way, are some of the most gracious I’ve known. Many of these came up to me at the ceremony and expressed their condolences over the death May 13 of Tribune columnist and reporter Leon Emo, who for years had been a familiar figure at the Memorial Day service, wearing his desert rat’s wide-brimmed hat, Bermuda shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes. Leon, himself, was a vet, and he often talked about his service days, especially Vietnam and later Korea, but he never made a big deal about his Army time. He was just one of those who stepped up when he was needed so the rest of us could enjoy a pleasant Monday at the end of May in a lovely park in front of an old courthouse symbolizing the rule of law, praying, singing, saluting, listening to speeches, flinching when the guns were fired in salute and meeting our friends.
Amen to that, my fellow beneficiaries of their bravery and sacrifice. Amen to that.