Another Kind of “Memorial” on Memorial Day 2018

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka the PRDude)

On this Memorial Day 2018, with weather in Chicago much more suited to Independence Day, I struggled for a relevant commentary, for some poignant message to communicate in this space appropriate for this national holiday.

I have experience in this subject.

Is the owner of this cart, photographed along the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, a veteran? Really, does it matter?

Last year, I wrote about a small monument in the Logan Square neighborhood, a community in the midst of revitalization and change now best defined as gentrification. And, in 2015, the PRDude reported on a memorial to Polish service men from St. Hyacinth parish in Avondale.

One thread between those two posts and this one: Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

Here’s why: Yesterday, I came across the shopping cart noted in the image above on the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, an arterial thoroughfare that connects Logan Square to Avondale and beyond. I have no idea who controls this rag-tag device, filled with aluminum cans and personal possessions.

Could this be the belongings of a U.S. serviceman?  Or a servicewoman?

Today, I read a news article that reported servicemen and women who get discharged for non-serious offenses are discriminated against when trying to return to the workforce.

That led me to search for some insight on those U.S. veterans who — despite serving their country — have not been able to land meaningful employment, find a place to live and assimilate into civilian life and society.  On the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans site, I learned staggering statistics on the plight of too many veterans today.

That led to this thought: On this day when we honor the men and women who served in our armed forces to let us live in a free land — one facing challenges, but fundamentally free — too many veterans are discarded and compelled to homelessness.

Perhaps some maintain their possessions in a shopping cart along a stretch of some  street in America, like Milwaukee Avenue.

So, on Memorial Day 2018, I offer thoughts of honor to those veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. But I also think we should do more — much more — to honor those veterans searching for the road that leads to the America they fought for.




Memorial Day 2017: A Perspective From a Changing Logan Sqaure

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Memorial Day 2017 dawned gloriously a few hours ago in Chicago, prompting a short excursion on foot through the somewhat deserted streets of our neighborhood.

This monument to fallen Logan Square heroes stands out amidst a changing neighborhood — and symbols of commerce.

Some advice: Take advantage of quiet times during holidays, especially those in the warm weather months, by strolling or biking in places familiar or new. You’d be surprised what may come to light in the hours you can claim as your own.

My walk today took me to the monument pictured in these images. It’s on Fullerton Avenue at Fransisco Avenue in Logan Square, and it honors those who lost their lives in “the great global war.”

There are 45 names on the now weathered bronze plaque at the base of the flag pole, which bears the U.S. stars and stripes and a flag honoring POWs.  Five red geraniums offer a little natural beauty, and someone later added a “V” for victory marker.

All of the names listed are men, save one, a woman (I presume) named La Donna.  All were residents of Logan Square around the turn of the 20th century, and all gave their lives in World War I.  All lived in a very different Logan Square.

Look close and you might be able to read all 45 names on this plaque.

Within steps of the monument, one can readily ascertain how the neighborhood has changed: A new cannabis dispensary, a hip coffee shop, a ramen noodle restaurant, art galleries and bars designed look like someone’s hideout.

In a sense, these American heroes — and the many who were killed over the decades while on duty — helped preserve the democracy that allows a neighborhood like Logan Square and others in Chicago and elsewhere to evolve and nurture these new business enterprises.

To some, bars that sell $8 glasses of beer and restaurants offering $14 bowls of soup are examples of gentrification; but from another perspective, it’s an example of the free-market economy we, as Americans, enjoy.

I hope others visit this little Logan Square monument this Memorial Day, even for a few minutes.  Then, patronize the local establishments, those made possible through the unselfish valor of others who lived here long ago.

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The PRDude has addressed Memorial Day in other posts:






Memorial Day 2015: A Memorial Close to Home

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

This Memorial Day 2015 morning, I set out for a walk in our Avondale neighborhood seeking exercise and inspiration.

I got both.

My hour stroll along quiet, empty streets took me north along Milwaukee Avenue north past Diversey Avenue, where I could observe first hand the changes taking place in our little corner of Chicago.

The next time you're in Avondale, take a moment to visit St. Hyacinth. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

The next time you’re in Avondale, take a moment to visit St. Hyacinth. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Some old storefronts, once home to mom-and-pop shops, were getting a facelift and new businesses were opening up. Old frame structures on the side streets were replaced by modern homes, adding a new dimension to some blocks.  Improvements — or call it gentrification — was happening beyond the Logan Square apex.

Then I got to St. Hyacinth Basilica and found the inspiration for this post.

There, in a small garden, next to a statue to commemorate Pope John Paul II, was a memorial to men of the then predominantly Polish parish who died and served in World War I. The handsome stone marker was dedicated in 1924, four years after the war ended.

There were 499 men from the parish who enlisted and were sent to Europe — the place where they or certainly their ancestors were born — to fight in the “war to end all wars.” Twelve of the men — 11 with Polish surnames and one Italian (I think) — did not make it home.

The memorial to men from the parish who served -- and died -- in World War I commands a prominent place on the parish grounds.

The memorial to men from the parish who served — and died — in World War I commands a prominent place on the parish grounds.

(Unfortunately, of course, we’ve not found a way to end all wars.)

I sat in the garden for a while and read the names of the men who died on the battlefield and the inscriptions. Their sacrifice allowed their families to continue to live in America in peace and build lives here.

What I realized this Memorial Day is that there probably are thousands of small memorials, like the one at St. Hyacinth’s,  to those servicemen and women who died in places far from their homes.

What I hope is this: That along with the large, public ceremonies that will take place in America on Memorial Day 2015, that someone visits the smaller places, too.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired, just like I was earlier today.

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Want more Memorial Day inspiration from The PRDude? Please read this 2013 post.

Memorial Day History, Thoughts and Songs of Reflection

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

On this dreary and cool Memorial Day 2013, it just doesn’t seem proper to get out the grill, cook some burgers, sit in the yard and enjoy this first “official” weekend of summer 2013.  After all, the forecast calls for rain and the temperatures here in Chicago won’t budge much beyond 60 degrees.

So let The PRude share some history, put forth a few thoughts about Memorial Day and recommend some songs to reflect on.

Not only was Gen. Logan a great man, he sported a way cool mustache.

Not only was Gen. Logan a great man, he sported a way cool mustache.

A Little History. A native son of Illinois is credited with the idea to recognize those brave Americans who fought and died for their country.  I’m referring to John A. Logan, who commanded Union troops as a General during the Civil War and had a distinguished career in state and national politics.

Here in my hometown, we’ve recognized Gen. Logan in two ways:  By naming a neighborhood and Square after him, and through a monument in Grant Park.  We live six blocks from the Logan Square roundabout, and I’ve blogged about the neighborhood, now one of the most desirable in Chicago.   Believe me, it’s a special place to live and visit.  As for the monument, which depicts the dashing General on a horse, it captured worldwide attention August 27, 1968 when protestors during the Democratic National Convention surrounded the statue and later clashed with Chicago Police.

My Memorial Day Thoughts.  Born in the 1950s, I grew up in the 1960s and had to register for the draft in the 1970s.  In fact, I was among the last age groups of men that had to register for Selective Service while this nation still had troops fighting in Vietnam.  I remember driving one day in September of 1973 to a Selective Service office with a friend from Illinois State University, Phil Walsh, to register at some office in Bloomington.  We both shared the same birthday.vietnam memorial

Those years — the late 1960s to early 1970s — led to things ugly and beautiful for the nation.  Ugly in the way our right to assemble turned violent here and elsewhere, largely over U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  Beautiful in the way people of all races, creeds and colors banded together for what they thought was right.  Ugly in the way returning Vietnam veterans were ostracized from much of society.  Beautiful in the way those veterans — and our returning heroes from the current wars — are remembered today.

Some Songs to Ponder. And now, as Memorial Day 2013 winds down, Doorsconsider these musical selections.  All were written around the time of the Vietnam War.  All tell different sides of the war.  I think all are poignant today.

  1. Sam Stone, written and performed by John Prine.  This sad lament about a drug-addicted Vietnam veteran includes the line, “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes.”
  2. Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town, by Kenny Rogers.  Here, a veteran who sustained a crippling injury contemplates shooting his wife who no longer loves “a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed.”
  3. The Unknown Soldier, written and performed by The Doors.  Vietnam was the first war covered by television news reports.  The song includes this couplet:  “Breakfast where the news is read,
    Television children fed.”

Please share your thoughts on Memorial Day.  Or, at least take a moment to contemplate on the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces.