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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Community gathers to honor veterans

Gabby Crabtree
Michael Embrey, a DeKalb resident and Air Force veteran, speaks at the Veterans Day Ceremony at Memorial Park. Embrey recognized members of the crowd who have helped DeKalb earn the title of National Veteran City of the Year. (Gabby Crabtree | Northern Star)

DeKALB – 70 DeKalb community members gathered to honor veterans and their service to our country at Memorial Park on Saturday.

Michael Embrey, a DeKalb resident and Air Force veteran, spoke at the ceremony. He gave recognition to different people in the crowd that have gone above and beyond in their community to bring honor to veterans in DeKalb.

“Through his (Frank Beierlotzer, commander of Illinois in the Forty and Eight) initiative and efforts, we were able to receive the state of Illinois Veterans City of the Year and more importantly the National Veteran City of the Year,” Embrey said.

Embrey also gave recognition to the memorials around DeKalb that honor veterans, like the Elks memorial, banners and flags. 

“Through Jerry’s (Smith) first term as mayor and our city manager, Bill Nicklas, we were able to embark, seven years ago, on all these projects we have in our town,” Embrey said.

Former DeKalb Mayor and Army veteran Jerry Smith, 80, said the DeKalb County Community Foundation will be looking to honor veterans around the county more through various memorials.

“Our goal is to expand recognition whether it be plots, whether it be benches, whether it be parks, throughout this county,” Smith said. 

A wreath was also presented at the memorial to honor the veterans.

Wreaths are put up twice a year in honor of veterans, on veterans day and on national wreath day at cemeteries across the country. 

The Honor Guard led the final part of the ceremony. The Honor Guard let off 3 shots, presents arms and player taps. 

Carolyn Zasada, DeKalb’s First Ward alderman and Marine veteran, said she had lost a friend during her service as well as a friend who lost their legs during duty.

“All gave some, but some gave all, and it is so heartbreaking to consider my friends who didn’t return and to recognize the privilege it is to be an American, the privilege it is to live in a country that is protected by so many,” Zasada said.

Embrey said that when he was visiting a grade school in Sycamore yesterday(November 10), the students treated him with respect, and it made him realize that sometimes we focus so much on the negative of the youth, that we forget there is good in them as well.

“I want people to realize that honoring our veterans is so important. Teaching our young kids about what honoring a veteran is all about,” Embrey said.

DeKalb resident Paul Meier, 71, who attended the memorial said he understands the dangers of being in the service and he appreciates veterans’ sacrifice so much. 

 “I’ll start weeping, it means that much. My father, my brother, my two sons Paul and Peter, they have all served in the military,” Meier said. 

The DeKalb County Community Foundation is sponsoring a new project, the Dekalb County Veterans Recognition Fund. The plan has a goal to raise $100,000 in order to keep building memorials and honoring veterans in DeKalb county. Donations can be made on its website.

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