Veterans' stories need to be remembered

Opinion: Letters to the editor

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Thank you for the wonderful articles about the Gold Star Memorial at Guthrie Park in your recent edition of the Landmark. I especially liked how you showcased Tom Sisulak's efforts at revitalizing the memorial. Tom Sisulak, aka Coach Sisulak, is a living treasure in Riverside, and we at American Legion Post 488 are so very proud of him. 

I also appreciated how you showcased the lives of Rev. Hedley Cooper, Sgt. James P, Quinn, and Pvt. Albert E. Moore. Their lives were important from a world war (World War I) that many do not remember today. 

Plaques commemorating people are all over Cook County, just like the ones located in Guthrie Park or in Township Hall. But do these plaques really tell the stories about the people behind them? Do we really know what they sacrificed in their lives and very often in their deaths? 

You told their stories just like military memorial plaques do at U.S. military installations around the world. Thank you for telling the stories that needed to be told, which is one of the reasons Post #488 applied for the 100 Cities/100 Memorials grant this past summer -- to encourage a conversation in the community about mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security and, most of all, a continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.

Another reason why American Legion Post 488 applied for the grant was because comments were made by leaders in the community that veterans' issues were not being addressed nor were their stories being told. 

I specifically recall comments made to me at a summer meeting of the Riverside Township Board of Trustees almost three years ago, that veterans were upset that their voices were not being heard. 

Well, when Post 488 and the village of Riverside (it is a collaborative effort) won the grant, we all began a process to hear the voices of veterans from the past, veterans from the present, and veterans in the future. 

All their stories need to be told and what better way than one at a time. The Gold Star Memorial is a place where people can come to tell those stories, not just on Veterans Days or Memorial Day, but every day.

American Legion Post 488 will continue to work with community leaders to restore the Gold Star Memorial. In the words of Village President Sells, it is truly "a sacred place."

Joseph Baar Topinka, commander

American Legion Post 488

Riverside

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