Chicago kicked off it's annual Memorial Day parade on State Street this afternoon to honor soldiers who fought and died in the Iraq war.
"We are most profoundly grateful to our gold star families who have suffered unfathomable losses and who understand most profoundly the words, service, sacrifice and patriotism," said CIA Director and this year's grand marshal David Patraeus at a wreath-laying ceremony before the parade. Before becoming CIA director, Petraeus was the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To mark the first Memorial Day since the end of the Iraq war in December, Petraeus joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn in Daley Plaza for the ceremony to recognize the names fallen service men along with their families.
"You are in our prayers, you are our loved ones," said Emanuel. "I thank you for your commitment."
All three presented the families with gold star flags before placing wreaths near Daley Plaza's Eternal Flame.
"The essence of Memorial Day is to remember those who gave their lives for democracy and never ever forget that sacrifice," said Quinn.
It was a sentiment that was deeply appreciated.
"To honor him and to have people ask me about him just makes it a better day," said Katie Tobin, wife of Sgt. Andrew Tobin who was killed in Afghanistan. "It's rough, but knowing that people are going to remember him is a great feeling."
Saturday's parade is also commemorating the 150th anniversary of taps, and several renditions have been played.
The melancholy melody was written in 1862 by Chicagoan Oliver Wilcox Norton during the Civil War. Ever since, it has been played as a part of military funerals.