CRYSTAL LAKE – As veterans groups arrived at Union Cemetery on Monday, the waiting crowd – some of whom waved American flags and dressed in red, white and blue – gave those who served in the military applause to thank them for their service.
The parade to the cemetery, the entrance of which was lined with American flags, was part of the Memorial Day festivities that took place in town and around the county to honor those who have died in military service.
There also were Memorial Day festivities in Fox River Grove, McHenry, Woodstock, Harvard, Hebron, Richmond, Spring Grove, Johnsburg, Huntley, Algonquin and Cary.
The Crystal Lake parade included members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars 12014, American Legion Post 171, the Lions Club, Warriors Watch, local Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and marching bands from Crystal Lake Central High School, Crystal Lake South High School and Prairie Ridge High School.
After the parade, the crowd gathered for a ceremony that included the playing of Taps, preceded by a rifle salute, and performances by the singing group Voices in Harmony and the three marching bands.
Members of the Legion and VFW laid wreaths, as bagpipers from the Crystal Lake Police Department played.
Heidi and Herber Lara of Crystal Lake came with their sons Antonio, 12, and Mateo, 9, to the parade.
“We have a lot of family members that have been in the military both now and in the past, so it’s an important day for us,” Heidi Lara said.
“We’re celebrating all that they do for us,” she added.
The keynote speaker during Monday’s ceremony was Joe Alger, the chief operating officer at J.A. Frate.
“We are free, we have the right to practice our religion, any religion we want to or no religion. We have the right to criticize our government, we have the right to burn a flag if we want to, we have the right to protest at military funerals, the right to hold up outlandish signs,” Alger said. “We have the right to do all these things, right or wrong, because of the sacrifices made by the men and women we honor today.”
Alger also spoke of those from McHenry County who died in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, including Army Pfc. Collier Barcus of McHenry, Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Collins of Crystal Lake, Army Spc. Keith Nurnberg of McHenry, Army Sgt. Jason A. McLeod of Crystal Lake, Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Antonik of Crystal Lake, and Marine Capt. Nathan R. McHone of Crystal Lake.
“They should be emulated and honored as role models,” Alger said. “Let us never forget the heritage of these men and women, and others like them. We owe it to them to continue to cherish what we have and to be on the lookout that we never give up what they fought for.”