Mount Prospect American Legion Post 525 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1337 gathered Thursday, May 27 to place flags of honor and remembrance on the graves of local veterans.
A rainy forecast did not discourage about 18 members of both posts who, along with some family members, assembled early in the morning and received their assignments. By late afternoon, they had placed almost 300 American flags at locations in 20 area cemeteries.
At St. John Cemetery and St. Paul Cemetery, flags were placed on the graves of all veterans that could be identified from cemetery records. At others, including All Saints, Memory Gardens, and Wheeling Township cemeteries, the final resting places of deceased members of both posts were honored.
The practice of decorating veterans’ graves began in America soon after the Revolutionary War. In many communities in several states, local residents made decorations and picked fresh spring flowers to honor the gravesites of heroes who helped win their independence. Over the next several years, many more towns and villages did the same and it became an annual event.
After the Civil War in 1868, General (later, president) James Garfield delivered a speech about veterans to about 5,000 people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery. After the speech, those in attendance decorated graves of about 20,000 soldiers from both sides. The event became known as Decoration Day.
Following WWI, observers began to honor the dead of all of America’s wars and both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars made it an annual ceremony. In 1971, the U.S. Congress made “Memorial Day” a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.
Long before that, however, the village of Mount Prospect began to honor its fallen heroes in a similar fashion. This has been part of the traditions of both posts since their inception. American Legion Post 525 was formed in November 1930. VFW Post 1337 was chartered in April 1925.
Every year on the “official” Memorial Day, cities and towns across America plan parades and festivities. Families have reunions and barbecues.
Grave Decoration Day, however, is not held on the “official” day. Rather, Post 525 and Post 1337 decorate graves on a quiet weekday when they can place their flags with somber respect and remember their departed comrades.
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