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The 17th Ward holds 8th annual South Side Memorial Day Parade

Photo caption: 17TH WARD RESIDENT looks on as Buffalo Soldiers take part in 2022 South Side Memorial Day

The South Side Memorial Day Parade grows in popularity each year. Monday, May 29, 2023, marks the 8th year for the only Memorial Day Parade on the city’s South Side. It was started by 17th Ward Alderman David Moore in response to local veterans suggesting he do something to honor America’s fallen soldiers.

Originally called Decoration Day, the first parade was held May 1, 1865, when more than 10,000 formerly enslaved people and white missionaries marched around a racetrack in Charleston, South Carolina. According to author David W. Blight’s 2001 book, “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory,” less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered, school children, members of the Black Union battalions, and Black religious figures marched around a Charleston racetrack that was the site of a mass grave during the war. After digging graves for each of the fallen soldiers, the newly-freed Civil War fighters decorated the graves in the first recorded Memorial Day celebration.

“The parade gets residents to appreciate and acknowledge our veterans,” says Ald. David Moore. “It also highlights resources for them, whether it’s jobs or mental health. It brings out people from all parts of the ward to celebrate Memorial Day to let them know they’re appreciated.”

This year’s keynote speaker will be retired Colonel Damon Arnold, M.D., M.P.H., CMT. Arnold served for 26 years in the Army National Guard, as the Commander of the Joint Medical Command and State Surgeon General for 12 years. He completed 17 over-seas missions to include locations in Africa, Central America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He was awarded the highly coveted Military Legion of Merit Medal from President Barack Obama for his achievements. Arnold also was awarded three Army Commendation Medals for his wartime deployments to Iraq and Kuwait where he served as the Officer in Charge of battlefield medical operations. During these deployments he functioned as a mechanized infantry Combat Medic as well as a qualified Flight Surgeon on over 120 field and flight operations. Arnold also served as the16th director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The parade ceremony begins at 10 a.m. Marchers will wind through Auburn Gresham from 77th and Emerald with a wreath laying ceremony in front of St. Leo’s Residence for Veterans. Also taking part in the parade are the Chicago Military Academy JROTC/SROTC serving as color guard, the Music Box Foundation, the Buffalo Soldiers 9th & 10th Horse Cavalry, Windy City Cheer, Barton Elementary School Band, MBM Dance Company, Stay Lit, Teatro Tariakuri dance, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, The Most Worshipful St. James Grand Lodge and Beatrice Grand Chapter order of Mason/Eastern Stars, The Tuskegee Airmen, Triple Nickels 555th, Montford Point Marines, Strike Force and The American Legion.

For more information, call the 17th Ward Service Office at 773-783-3672.

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