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Residents ‘remember those who gave their lives’ on Memorial Day

Every year on the last Monday of May, members of the Mokena Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 725 and those in the community join forces to honor and pay tribute to Mokena-area military service members.

“It means everything,” said Jim Hogan, commander of the Mokena VFW Post. “I’m very proud to be part of Mokena. Mokena supports this VFW Post year-round, not just on Memorial Day. The turnout you see for every Memorial Day, there’s very patriotic people, here. I greatly appreciate them.”

Ahead of Memorial Day, a stable of volunteers and VFW auxiliary members had posted miniature U.S. flags near gravesites to set the scene.

“It’s a group effort on Memorial Day,” Hogan said.

To the beat of a drum, the names nearly 300 military service members were recited—all of which signify veterans with ties to the Mokena-area that died having played a role in protecting the country.

Spectators stood side-by-side as they lined the cemetery grounds to honor deceased veterans for their service.

A 21-gun salute was performed, followed by the sounding of trumpets.

Hogan said it’s nice to know that all veterans can now feel welcomed upon returning home.

“After 9/11 [and] after the terrorist attack, the respect for the U.S. military, everything just changed at that point in time, not only here in this community but the United States,” Hogan said.

A parade commenced in transitioning between the ceremonies held at St. Mary, Pioneer and St. John’s cemeteries.

“We had the combination marching bands, rather than just having the [Lincoln-Way] East band,” Hogan said. “Now, it’s the total Lincoln-Way band. I thought that was huge.”

Also participating in the festivities was the Mokena Junior High School marching band, the Knights of Columbus and Mokena Boy Scout Troop 725.

After the third ceremony, participants were invited to enjoy a patriotic celebration, featuring a presentation by students from All About Music & Children’s Theatre.

Rodney and Cheryl Stickle, of Mokena, dropped in for the festivities held at the Mokena VFW Post where the two serve as auxiliary members.

“We’ve always supported veterans causes,” Rodney said. “When I was growing up, my dad was a member of the [American] Legion.”

“I was raised to respect our elders and our military and our veterans. It’s the way I was raised.”

The Stickle family’s history has long been rooted in the effort to support the troops, Rodney said.

“Her grandfather was a [World War I] veteran and my dad was a [Korean War veteran,]” Rodney said.

Cheryl agreed.

“My daughter is also a member of the auxiliary,” she said.

Cheryl added that her family strives to the giveback to veterans in the community in a variety of ways throughout the year.

This year, the names of six military service members were memorialized with a plaque and added to the wall at the Mokena VFW Post. Those honored include Martin E. Crane, Lendon R. Davis, Walter (Sparky) Hentsch, Allan F. (Arnie) Lawson, Richard P. Quarles and Tony Schramm.

“The bottom line is, this day was set aside to remember those that gave their lives or deceased veterans, which is different than Veterans Day,” Hogan said. “Veterans Day is the day set aside for the living veterans to celebrate, and then, of course, the Fourth of July for independence, the freedom of this nation. So many people have lost track of what Memorial Day is. It’s kind of turned into more of planting flowers, opening pools, grilling out. That’s not really what this day was set aside for. It was there to remember those that gave their lives.”

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