Honoring Today’s Men And Women in Uniform

By Larry Atseff

In Burr Ridge, on May 21, 2022, ceremonies were held honoring the men and women in uniform today in our Armed Forces. Armed Forces Day began in 1950 and is the only national holiday of its kind, and Burr Ridge is one of the very few towns in Illinois, if not the country, that invests heavily to honor them. Dignitaries in attendance included Mayor Gary Grasso, WWII Veteran Asencion S. Vela, Committee Chairman, and former Mayor Mickey Straub, Ret. Marine General Robert Castellvi and Navy Captain Scott Smith, who flew in from Rhode Island to be this year’s keynote speaker. The celebration was held at the Burr Ridge Veterans Memorial. Over 150 local patriots braved the somewhat chilly day–which later turned to rain–and included many men and women in uniform with their loved ones, a few active-duty members, the Tri-State Fire Department and Burr Ridge Officers. Village Trustees Guy Franzese, Anita Mital, Antonio Schiappa and Russ Smith (who is also a Committee Member), were also there to celebrate our current military.

Bob Gremer with his daughter Meghan, son-in-law Norridge policeman Brian Dongarra, and children Austyn and Sadie

The West Suburban Concert Band played military march music, a Color Guard was there, and Reveille and Taps were by veteran Larry Cichelli of Buglers Across America. Pastor Bob Geaschel, a military veteran, conducted the invocation and benediction. The recipient of the Jack Schaus Patriot Award was Bob Grember, a Navy veteran who was honored for his active-duty service and his support of the VFW in Naperville, Cantigny American Legion, Honor Flight and his 14 years of volunteer work with others at the nearby Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. Captain Smith focused on the meaning of service, not only in the armed services, but also public officials like Mayors, as well as service among our police and fire departments. Smith said there are 1.4 million men and women on active military duty today all over the world, and 800,000 in the reserves. They are protecting a nation of 329 million people and are doing it with sophisticated military equipment more technologically advanced than the first space shuttle. Over his career, he has been Commander of the USS Michael Monsoor guided-missile destroyer and now serves as the Command at Sea Director at Surface Warfare Officers School. “During his 31-year career”, he said, “I have been continually impressed with the quality of the men and women in service.”

Left to Right, Mayor Gary Grasso, Patriot Award Winner, Navy veteran Bob Grember, Navy Captain Scott Smith, and former mayor, and armed forces day committee chairman, Mickey Straub.

He reminded us of their sacrifice and service. As you listened, it was good to be reminded of what the military in our country is all about. He told us about a little-known event where George Washington made the case for how our Armed Forces should conduct themselves. “During The Revolutionary War, he said, “in March 1783–in the 8th year of our War for Independence–a group of officers gathered in the small town of Newburgh, NY to discuss a situation– this was not about some military battle, it was about pay and benefits. These officers had not been paid for two to three years, and they didn’t feel Congress was acting on the matter. They were meeting to decide what to do about it. The discussion turned ugly…there was talk of marches on Philadelphia and even so far as a military takeover of Congress.” “George Washington had heard about this meeting–to which he was not invited–and showed up. He walked up to address the gathering, and then stopped…he very deliberately pulled out his glasses…glasses that no one except his closest staff had ever seen him wear…and he said, ‘Gentlemen, you must pardon me.

“I have been continually impressed with the quality of the men and women in service.”

I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.’” “Washington went on to talk about their service and how an Army–a military service–should conduct itself within our new nation. That to rise up against those elected representatives would tarnish the reputation of the individuals involved and the Army as a whole. Smith said, “That was 240 years ago and those thoughts still permeate and govern the interactions between our elected officials and our military. And this is unique in the world.” This patriotic event concluded with Bob Grember, the Patriot Award Recipient asking all the veterans to stand up. Then he reminded all of us lucky enough that each and every one of them, and those currently serving, signed a blank check to us all when they chose to serve, which included their lives. It was so moving you could hear a pin drop. As it ended, Captain Smith remarked, “It is a privilege to serve this country”. That also kept ringing in everyone’s ears.

*Photos by Miguel Narvaez