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Local News

Area veterans remember comrades in special ceremony

Service provides honors missed at burial

ELWOOD – A 21-gun salute, multiple color guards, two buglers and a host of veterans honored 64 of their fallen comrades in a special ceremony Monday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.

All 64 veterans were “direct burials” at the cemetery, meaning no one requested military honors for their interment, Jack Picciolo, commander of Lockport VFW Post 5788 said.

Their remains were dropped off at the cemetery by funeral homes or delivery services. Some had no next of kin or no family nearby to attend their funerals, Picciolo said. Others were homeless. All were buried during the previous quarter of this year.

Monday’s direct burial ceremony was attended by more than 60 veterans and volunteers. That’s a far cry from a few years ago, when few people turned out to witness the ceremony, Picciolo said.

“Two or three years ago, I can remember when there were only two people that turned out for the whole thing, myself and the [cemetery’s] director,” Picciolo said. “We read the names of 87 veterans and no else was there but us and the memorial squad.”

Picciolo began publicizing the direct burials, urging the public and other veterans to attend.

“It has definitely improved, but we still need to get the word out,” Picciolo said.

Steve Admonis, vice commander of the cemetery’s memorial honors squad, agreed.

“We need to keep this alive,” Admonis said. “We are here today because of these people. You hear all the time that ‘freedom isn’t free.’ It’s paid for with blood and sweat, not only by the veterans but by their families.”

Monday’s ceremony was attended by members of the American Legion Riders, as well as members of various area Legion and VFW posts.

Following a benediction and the Pledge of Allegiance, Admonis read the names, ranks and military branches of all 64 veterans, who ranged from World War II onward. A memorial bell was rung after each name was read.

A seven-man rifle squad then fired three volleys, after which a pair of buglers played “Echo Taps.” Memorial squad members removed a flag draping a representative casket, folded it and presented it to Norm Surprenant of Shorewood.

“They asked me to sit in for the families,” Surprenant, an 89-year-old Army Air Force veteran said.

The cemetery has offered direct burials since 2004.

“Every quarter year we take the time to honor those who were laid to rest without honors,” Admonis said.

Admonis noted the cemetery’s all-volunteer memorial honor squad is one of only three active units in the country.

The cemetery was dedicated in 1999. More than 36,000 veterans have been buried on the 982-acre site. The cemetery eventually will hold 400,000 graves.

Those honored Monday included 24 veterans who served in World War II, 10 who served in Korea, 22 who served in Vietnam and eight who served during peacetime. Their names and ranks, as provided by organizers, are:

• PV1 Frances Krischunas
• PV2 John Pastor
• PFC Francis Dickey
• TEC5 Louis Radon
• TEC4 Ralph Krieger
• PVT George Baciu
• PFC Trinidad Castillo
• PFC Wallace Holland
• PFC Patrick Collins
• SP2 Earl Harris
• SSGT George Jackson
• PFC Wayne Riggins
• PFC Irving Schachtmeister
• 1LT Ronald Griggs
• SP4 James Mattigly
• CPL William Jones
• SP3 Robert Tigue
• PFC Edward Valchar
• PFC Harold Flowers
• SP4 Henry Williams
• PFC Wesley Wade
• PV1 Chester Ciieslicki
• PVT L. Thomas
• 1LT Helen Grey
• CPL Clarence Nelson
• PFC Frank Possedi
• PFC Paul Olenik
• PV1 Lester Epps
• TEC3 Arthur Kopsell
• SP4 James Petschow
• PV1 Daniel Mulchay
• PFC Kenneth Pflepsen
• PV1 Jerry Burke
• TEC5 James Dailey
• PFC Larry Roney
• PFC Gary Gies
• SGT Stanley Martin
• PFC Patrica McNeil
• PFC Gary Miller

• SGT Marvin Lovinn
• LCPL Edward Grzeda
• CPL William Thompson
• PFC Harry Moore
• PFC Robert Gorlo
• PVT Alexander Pobidynsky
• PVT Albert Bonfield*

• AMM1 Paul Schimpler
• SA Randy Dillard
• TM3 Robert Paridee
• SR Claymont Porter
• AC3 Dougles Voyles
• STM2 Leobia Lane
• RT2 Paul Bauer
• HA2 Rita Silha

• AB Thomas Austin
• SGT John Kelm
• A2C William Wilson
• TSGT Kenneth Vann
• A2C Frank Schourek
• SSGT Louis Hodson
• A2C Edward Ziska
• A1C Norman Garner
• A3C John Moore

• Alvin Cavinette

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