Two restored World War II military jeeps led a caravan of veterans along River Street in Hyde Park, stopping at memorial squares dedicated to fallen soldiers who never returned to their neighborhoods.
Dressed in the green or tan Army uniforms of the era, a trio of re-enactors got out at each stop. and saluted as an honor guard from the Fogg/Roberts American Legion Post 78 fired three volleys from M1 rifles into the air. A lone trumpeter played “Taps.”
“This means a lot to our family,” said Michael Greeley, 48, a nephew of Anthony Greeley, a deceased Army veteran of World War II and Korea, whose square is at the corner of Ellis Street. “This is where he played. This is where he hung out.”
The younger Greeley, dressed as a World War II Army medic, a red cross sewn into the sleeve of a his jacket. “I think it’s important that we honor those who served our country,” said Greeley, who is not a veteran.
John Moran, a past commander of the post, said the neighborhood salute is a Memorial Day tradition in Hyde Park.
“People drive by the squares every day, and they probably don’t even notice them . . . But we know, they are for the fallen,” he said, after a wreath-laying ceremony at Fairview Cemetery.
The wreath-laying was held at the Civil War Memorial, which five months ago was the site of shocking vandalism.
The bronze statue of a union soldier, armed with a musket as he prepared for battle, was knocked off the large, granite stone where it had stood since 1911. The incident happened five months ago, and the statue is now being restored at a cost of $18,000, Moran said.
“This is a complete desecration,” Moran said, addressing the silent crowd.
The American Legion Post’s observance also included a Roman Catholic Mass at Most Precious Blood Church, where 160 veterans and local residents remembered the war dead in song, prayer and reflection.
“Americans must remember that freedom isn’t free,” said George Perry, an Air Force veteran, who was the guest speaker at the Mass. “We must never lose focus of what Memorial Day means. It’s a day to remember.”