Flags at a National Cemetery

"The city of Litchfield Park invites the public to its upcoming ceremony at 7 a.m. Monday, May 27, in front of the Litchfield Park World War II memorial on the west side of Litchfield Elementary School, 255 E. Wigwam Boulevard."

Generally, holidays are a chance to gather with family and friends to celebrate. But one holiday is not meant for celebration; it is for remembering — remembering the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

For many, though, the meaning of Memorial Day has come to mean a day off and picnics. But Litchfield Park’s ceremony aims to help local residents pause and take time to memorialize fallen soldiers.

The city of Litchfield Park invites the public to its upcoming ceremony at 7 a.m. Monday, May 27, in front of the Litchfield Park World War II memorial on the west side of Litchfield Elementary School, 255 E. Wigwam Boulevard.

Parking is available in the lot on the south side of the school. The ceremony is expected to last about 45 minutes, and light refreshments will be served.

Litchfield Park Mayor Thomas L. Schoaf will lead the ceremony, which includes patriotic music, the placing of a floral tribute at the WWII memorial, a prayer and moment of silence, and the playing of “Taps.” A special POW-MIA ceremony will also be held in honor of the brave men and women who were prisoners of war or went missing while serving.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lance D. Undhjem will be the keynote speaker at the ceremony. Undhjem has a distinguished career of almost 40 years of military service, so hopes he can convey the true meaning of Memorial Day to local residents.

“For many, Memorial Day is a sad day,” he said. “For those who have served, we all know someone who has died while serving. It’s a time to stop and reflect on the times we had with them.”

At the event, he will talk about the meaning of Memorial Day, and tell a story of a fallen soldier from Litchfield Park. The soldier was someone Undhjem knew personally.

“The vast majority of those who serve, they come home. But there are men and women who don’t. That’s why we have this day,” he explained.

He added that the military and war has changed much with each generation, starting with most men serving in the past. That is no longer the case.

“Now only about 1% are in active military. Less than 6-7% have ever served,” he explained.

As a result, some may lose a connection with the military and also the true meaning of Memorial Day. That’s why it’s important that people take the time stop and reflect and honor those who have fallen.

For additional details about the Memorial Day ceremony, please visit litchfield-park.org.