CHICAGO -- A stone's throw from Navy Pier, a familiar sound played in a park honoring a story more should know. Private First Class Milton Lee Olive III was just 18 years old when he threw himself on top of a grenade saving the lives of four fellow soldiers in Vietnam.
"What Milton did for us, none of know if we could have done the same thing," said Ed Johnson, a Purple Heart recipient.
Relatives and fellow service members went to the lakefront park that’s named in Olive’s memory on Memorial Day. They say Olive was the first African-American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
"We called him "skipper" - my grandmother did,” recalled Olive’s first cousin Chinta Strausberg. “He was an 18 year old kid from Englewood who was deeply in love with his country. Small in stature, Skipper, had a big heart and wore the weight of this nation proudly on his shoulders."
At the same time Monday, another family gathered to remember a loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Fred John Marchert was killed in action during the Korean War in 1952. Every year since then, Marchert’s family has gathered at Mount Greenwood cemetery on Memorial Day.
"The finest big brother any kid could have,” recalled Jim Marchert. “I was only 8 years old when he was taken from us.” This year, friends and family travelled from as far away as Florida and Georgia to pay their respects. "Each generation has learned what this day means,” Marchert said. “To always hold it special, and come here and be with us."