For veterans, Memorial Day more than the backyard barbecue — it’s about honor
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent May 26, 2014 8:04PM
VFW Post 2697 and American Legion Post 16 post colors at the start of the Memorial Day service and commemoration of the Vietnam Conflict at Community Veterans Memorial in Munster on May 26, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media
BY THE NUMBERS
— In 1964, 216 Americans were killed in Vietnam. By the end of the year, troops were increased to 23,300.
— Between 1955 and 1975, 58,253 United States Armed Forces were killed in Vietnam, of which 38,244 were Army, 14,844 Marines, 2,586 Air Force, 2,566 Navy, 26 Merchant Marines and 7 Coast Guard. Meanwhile, 153,363 personnel were wounded, and 1,698 are still accounted-for.
SOURCE: Frank Darrington, VFW Post 2697 Commander
Updated: June 28, 2014 6:03AM
MUNSTER — As a rule, there isn’t a “vet-dar” that tells service veterans when they’re among their own; it’s little things, like noticing the way they stand or the simple metal band on their left wrist naming friends who didn’t make it back.
For U.S. Army Staff Sergeants William Bosak, of Munster; and Tim Thomas of Highland, Thomas’ attending the Memorial Day ceremony at Munster’s Veterans Park in full dress blues would’ve been the giveaway — had they not already been friends. But the two men, along with another friend and fellow soldier, happily chatted shop while their wives waited patiently.
“We’re used to this,” Thomas’ wife, Mary, said with a resigned smile.
The town’s ceremony held extra-special meaning, Munster VFW Post 2697 Cmdr. Frank Darrington, of Munster, said. As one of only 40 VFW posts around the country partnering with the U.S. Department of Defense’s commemoration of the Vietnam War’s 50th anniversary, the ceremony kept its focus there.
Darrington’s heart was further made full by the knowledge that his son, U.S. Army Capt. Anthony Darrington, also of Munster, in five days will head to Brook Army Medical Center in Ft. Sam Houston, Texas to start his medical doctor residency.
Anthony Darrington, who spent 16 years in the Air Force before enlisting in the Army, is always honored to participate in his dad’s commemoration. He’s also looking forward to his latest deployment.
“I feel like I’m going to be reconnecting with my active-duty comrades,” he said. “There’s this sense of community you don’t find anywhere else.”
Bosak has served two tours, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. As he loaded his daughter, Kierra, 2, into his truck to head home, he recalled a conversation he’d had earlier that day about what Memorial Day means to him.
“I was talking to a friend about this, and really, this is not a happy day,” Bosak said. “This is really a day for us to grieve first, and then we can go to our barbecues and be happy. It’s about being appreciative for those who’ve gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Thomas, 33, felt it was only proper to wear his full dress blues to honor soldiers past and present.
“We’re sharing with the public that the guys we’ve lost gave their lives for a purpose,” he said. “It’s also always neat to see the older vets.”