BATAVIA – The Batavia Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1197 rededicated a monument honoring all those men and women who served in the nation’s armed forces, as part of its Memorial Day observance.
The large black granite memorial was moved from an obscure spot on the VFW site to a high-visibility location on the post’s sprawling green lawn.
The effort to relocate the memorial was championed by Batavia VFW Commander Garrett Robinson of St. Charles, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Extending from the base of the monument is a deck composed of brick pavers inscribed with the names of local soldiers, sailors and Marines, both living and dead.
VFW member Cliff Bartelt of Geneva pointed to his own named brick, which recognizes his service in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, while he contemplated the meaning of Memorial Day.
“I’m thinking of all my brothers and sisters that didn’t make it back,” Bartelt said. “I went into the service for God, duty and country. I love this country. When I got home I knelt down and kissed the ground."
Before the monument rededication, a large crowd gathered in the VFW’s cavernous Hangar building for a traditional Memorial Day service.
There were readings of Logan’s Orders and Flanders Fields, tributes to those killed in action and their Gold Star families and to those who became a POW or MIA.
As the Batavia Community Band played a medley of the hymns for each branch of military service, veterans stood to the applause of the audience.
The keynote speaker was Navy Lt. Rudy Chmelik, commanding officer of the Naval Security Force Great Lakes.
“This is a day of remembrance, not a day of mourning,” said Chmelik, resplendent in his dress whites.
Chmelik serves in the Naval Reserve, but is expected to be ready for active deployment at any moment.
“The expectations of our government and the American people are very high,” Chmelik said.
Chmelik paid tribute to the families of service members, who endure sacrifices when their loved ones are on active duty or deployed overseas.
“Many relationships don’t hold up to that level of stress,” Chmelik said.
VFW member Allan Richard of Batavia was gratified by the large turnout for the observance.
“The Batavia community has really backed our veterans,” said Richard, who served tours in Iraq and Korea with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, the famed “Screaming Eagles.”
Robinson will step down as Batavia VFW post commander next month, to be replaced by Jay Davis of North Aurora, a U.S. Army veteran who served with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Germany and the Persian Gulf.
Karla Grendahl of DeKalb will become the new president of the Batavia VFW Auxiliary.