Elgin remembers veterans, especially those lost during World War II, Korea, Vietnam
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News May 28, 2012 6:06PM
Teigan Lukes, left, 14, and Fiona Lukes, right, 10, of West Dundee, place flowers on veteran's graves during Memorial Day activities at Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin last year. Sun-Times Media file photo.
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:24AM
ELGIN — In the past year, the Elgin American Legion Post 57 has lost 27 American veterans of World War II and Korea.
The Watch City VFW Post 1307 has lost another 12 of its veterans as well — men who survived Vietnam, Korea and World War II.
Those veterans, and others from Elgin who have served in wartime, were honored Monday at Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery. The annual observance — the oldest continuing event in Elgin’s history, dating to 1892— is held on a hill overlooking the graves of soldiers.
This year’s Memorial Day observance also honored the two unknown soldiers buried at the Jon Duerr Forest Preseve — formerly known as the Black Hawk Forest Preserve. According to historian Bill Briska, the two men died as General Winfield Scott’s army marched west out of Chicago and Fort Dearborn in 1832. The two men didn’t die in combat, but likely from cholera. They were left buried along the Fox River, and were later memorialized when one of their fellow soldiers returned and planted a cherry tree at their graves.
For nearly 30 years, visiting the grave and the memorial marker erected in 1909 has become a habit of his, Briska said. “I have visited that hallowed ground more often than my own” deceased family members, he said.
It was close to his workplace, Briska said, and a nice place to eat lunch and contemplate. It’s also a bit of U.S. military history that he’s researched and found himself talking with his father about, Briska said.
“Who were these men?” Briska asked. Nearly 180 years after that conflict with Native American tribes, their fate is unknown. What he does know, Briska said, is that they were patriots and likely enlisted men — citizen soldiers like his father, who enlisted after Pearl Harbor.
Much like his father, the young men probably came together with their comrades in a “somewhat random fashion,” Briska said.
His father grew up in a time when patriotism was instilled in students as a matter of fact. That patriotism came with a love for the Bill of Rights, living by The Golden Rule, and an attitude of “live and let live,” that he still appreciates, Briska added.
“They were called to serve and they were patriots,” he said — meaning both his father and the unknown soldiers.
Monday’s service at Bluff City Cemetery was the final cap in many events over the weekend, said Jerry Turnquist, president of the Elgin Patriotic Association. The day started with services at other area cemeteries where veterans are interred, and the laying of a wreath in the Fox River at Veterans Memorial Park, adjacent to the Gail Borden Public Library at 270 N. Grove Ave.
That program honors those who lost their lives at sea and were not returned home for burial. That ceremony also has a long history in Elgin, going back to about 1937, Turnquist said.