They rose in unison, more than 300 retired members of the Armed Forces, gathered to remember, to honor their fallen friends and their own personal sacrifices. With arms raised in salute, the crowd welcomed the flag, which was presented by the H.L. Richards High School ROTC.
Adorned in military hats, medals, uniforms and street clothes, the crowd remained standing as Cathy Townsend sang the National Anthem, tears welling up in some of their eyes.
The group then joined in as Deacon Joesph Brady recited the Pledge of Allegiance to a packed banquet room at the Double Tree Hotel in Alsip. As the 300 took their seats, it was clear that the “Salute to our Armed Forces,” event was more than just a simple gathering.
Settling in, the crowd grew silent as Cook County Board 6th District Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy (D-Crestwood) took the stage. Murphy spoke to the group about their service and sacrifices and about what they mean to her.
“It's an honor for me, members of my family have been in every war, skirmish and conflict since World War II, right up to and including Afghanistan,” Murphy said. “So I have a strong affinity for these folks and I'm very delighted to be here and be a part of this, because it's very close to my heart.”
Murphy was a main sponsor of the event, along with VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, and added that she was excited about the large turnout.
“It's wonderful, we had about 200 last year and we have 300 this year, so this is something that's growing,” Murphy said. “There are so many veterans' movements now, across the country, that the word is out. So veterans are coming out to be recognized, to be honored for their service.”
That honor came from a medal of thanks, which was designed by a fellow veteran and was awarded to all those service men and women who were in attendance.
The event, which drew veterans from across Cook County—including Orland Park, Matteson, Chicago, Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge and Tinley Park—received high praise from those in attendance.
“This is very nice and very respectful,” said Daniel Finn, an Oak Lawn veteran and member of the Illinois Military Order of the Purple Heart. “It's a very nice thank you to us. It's our second year here and we'll be back next year.”