LANSING | About 70 local World War II veterans, both living and deceased, were honored Sunday during the Pillars of Honor ceremony at Thornton Fractional South High School as part of Lansing Autumn Fest. About 10 of those veterans were in attendance for the program in their honor.
Following the singing of patriotic songs and the presentation of colors by the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard, speaker George Haupt talked about his experience as a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1954 and 1955.
The program concluded with an unveiling of a model of the National World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., which opened to the public on April 29, 2004. The model was a design submitted by Friedrich St. Florian, a Rhode Island architect, as he was selected as one of the six semifinalists in an open, national competition. It was then presented to Congress by Sen. Bob Dole.
The Pillars of Honor Inc. was created in 2010 and is an all-volunteer organization that brings the memorial to veterans who are unable to travel to see the actual memorial site. Since its inception it has hosted at least one program each month in the Chicago area. The next scheduled showing is Oct. 27 at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Forest Park.
Seated near the front were men who we now regard as the “Greatest Generation,” some in wheelchairs wearing hats with military insignias or jackets with medals affixed. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that our country is losing about 700 World War II veterans a day, and volunteers with the Pillars of Honor want to reach as many remaining World War II veterans as they can.
Clarence Ellerie, of Lansing, was just 20 years old when he shipped off to the Pacific, where he served from 1943 to 1946.
“I was in the heavy artillery,” he said with his wife of 69 years, Marge, by his side following the ceremony. “We made several landings from island to island,” he said. He recalled one of his most significant highlights of his time in the service was seeing Gen. Douglas McArthur land. “He told the people in the Philippines, 'I will return!”
Members of T.F. South High School’s history club ushered guests into the lobby and served cake. Cakes decorated for each branch of the military were provided by Calumet Bakery.
John Wilson, director of the Lan-Oak Park District, worked to organize the program to tie in with the Autumn Fest activities that day, which also included an ROTC drill team performance, readings of World War II letters written to loved ones back home and a performance by the Legacy Girls, a trio that sings World War II era music as performed by the Andrews Sisters.
For more information on the Pillars of Honor Inc, visit www.pillarsofhonor.org.