World War II veteran a guest of honor at Morris Memorial Day ceremony
In 1942, Herb Weitz sent a young Elmo Younger from Grambling, Louisiana, a ticket to come to Morris to work at his café. Weitz had a cook who was drafted into World War II and this cook recommended his southern friend to take his place.
Younger worked as a dishwasher and a short order cook for a short time, moved to Joliet, was drafted into the war that same year and served in the U.S. Army until 1947. After the Army, he made Morris his home and worked for U.S. Steel and the Illinois Department of Corrections Juvenile Division in Morris.
He was a City Council member, speaker at area schools, past State Commander of Disabled American Veterans, and life member of VFW Post 6049 and American Legion Post 6049.
On Memorial Day, at the age of 97, Younger once again was the guest of honor at the Memorial Day events hosted by the John Martin Steele VFW Post 6049 at Morris Community High School. Potential thunderstorms led to the ceremony being held inside and cancellation of the parade.
Younger said he wanted to “Meet the comrades and let them know that I’m still hanging in there. I also want people to know that this is the greatest country in the world and for them to appreciate those individuals who served this great country.”
The program began with the posting of the colors by the Morris Color Guard and the singing of the national anthem. The Rev. Roy Backus of the First Presbyterian Church gave the invocation.
“We pray Lord that in this time of memoriam, that we remember our great freedoms that we have and that we cherish them and live freely that others might see that. May we truly be people who live for liberty,” Backus said.
VFW Post 6049 Post Commander Jerry Zeborowski said each year the post hosts this memorial event as a day to remember the soldiers who lost their lives in battle and who died for our country fighting for the flag.
“It’s a time to remember them and their families as they made the sacrifice too,” Zeborowski said.
Morris American Legion Post 294 Commander Ken Buck welcomed spectators in the high school gym with a speech about the great sacrifice many men and women made so that Americans could live in a free country.
Buck began with the Gettysburg Address.
“These words are as relevant today as they were on that day. For over 243 years, our nation has been fortunate to have men and women serve in our armed forces,” Buck said. “And unfortunately, for over 243 years, we have had men and women die in service to our nation.
“From the American Revolution to our current operations against terrorism, one million, one million men and women have made the supreme sacrifice while serving in wars and conflicts.
“We honor all of them, not just those with the highest medals or the heroes who fought the most famous battles. They all died so we can continue to cherish the things that we love.”
Song selections were played by the MCHS Marching Redskins Band.
Afterward, representatives from the Gold Star Mothers, VFW Post 6049 Auxiliary, American Legion Post 294 Auxiliary and the Daughters of the American Revolution performed a laying of the wreaths ceremony.
The keynote address was given by Morris Community High School 2019 graduate Maggie Dudley.
Dudley earned the VFW Post 6049 2019 scholarship for her essay titled, “American History: Our Hope for the Future.”
In order to be eligible for the scholarship, Dudley needed a grade point average of at least 3.75, a high school diploma, to have an honorably discharged relative and to write an essay.
Dudley, who plans to attend the University of Illinois and study animal sciences, spoke about unity.
“In all of our past wars, conflicts and other challenging times, the greatest successes came when citizens from across the country banded together under one unified ideal,” Dudley said. “The sense of togetherness was what pushed us over the barrier of inexperience and out of combined efforts for glorious fruit. Our small collection of states was now an independent nation.”
A moment of silence was taken after final remarks by Zeborowski.
The Morris Color Guard left the gym and performed a 21-gun salute outside while Steve Huettemann of the Morris Police Department played taps.
As guests left, members of Scouts of America Troop 808 of Morris handed out poppies.