Hundreds gathered in Chicago Saturday for Memorial Day weekend to honor and remember fallen heroes.
The city’s Memorial Day Parade stepped off at noon Saturday following a wreath laying ceremony in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.
Paradegoers lined the streets to honor members of the United States Armed Services.
“Veterans have done a lot for us and it’s time we come out and show them love,” said parade participant Una Leon. “Without them we’d be in a lot of trouble.”
James Frazier was honored at the ceremony as the recipient of the 2014 Major General John A. Logan Patriot Award.
Frazier, who lost his son in combat in March 2003, has spent the last 11 years serving as the survivor outreach services coordinator for the U.S. Army in northern Illinois. He was honored for his devotion to the Illinois Gold Star Families and the men and women of America’s Armed Forces, according to the the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
“I get up every day and I think of what I can do to make [my son] proud. I think he would be today,” Frazier said. “I wish it was Veterans Day today and I wish I was standing at a Veterans Day Parade with my arm around my son, having him tell me stories about his deployments, but it’s not Veterans Day. Those folks that are alive, our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, are buried. It is important that as a society we remember those who gave their lives to make this country what it is.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel echoed that statement in speech at the ceremony.
“There will be activities today—the beach, bike rides, barbecues – but under the activities is the unspoken freedoms we have and there are sons and daughters that provide that freedom,” Emanuel said.
Iraq war veteran and U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth struggled to hold back tears during the wreath-laying ceremony.
Speaking in Daley Plaza Saturday, Duckworth said, "There is not a day when I don't get up (and) say a prayer of thanks for my life and for theirs."
The Democratic congresswoman lost both legs and partial use of an arm when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting in Iraq in 2004.
She noted that more than 400 soldiers and air men from the Illinois National Guard were not home with their families Saturday because they are serving overseas.
Duckworth also served as grand marshal of the Memorial Day Parade.
On the minds of many at the parade were the recent accusations that veterans hospitals fudged waiting lists in an effort to cover lengthy, and potentially deadly, health care delays.
"If the accusations are true, I think it's a shame," said retired arm vet Brad Combs. "We have a lot of vets who have sacrificed a lot and we owe them a lot and if the allegations are true then action needs to be taken and we need to clean up the mess and take care of our vets in the future."
Among those who spoke out about the allegations was Sen. Dick Durbin, who was scheduled to meet with Eric Shinseki at his Washington office amid increasingly louder calls for the veteran affairs secretary to resign.
“I met with General Shinseki, who runs the VA, and made it clear to him,” Durbin said Saturday. “Absolutely unacceptable the charges that have been made. We want a full and complete investigation.”