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Memorial Day 2013

Today we remember and honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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Memorial Day events were held throughout Chicago and the nation Monday, honoring the men and women of the military who lost their lives while serving the country.

In Chicago’s Grant Park, wreaths were laid in memory of those who had fallen.  For Sue King, Memorial Day isn’t a holiday, it’s a day of mourning.  Her son Sgt. Robert Weinger was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.  He was 24 years old.  Today she laid a wreath for Bob. He’s one of 253 Illinois soldiers to be killed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Everyone at Grant Park today knows personally what it’s like to lose a loved one in war. Air Force Major General John Borling served this country for 37 years.  He laid a wreath at the foot of the statue of another general who came before him, General John Logan led troops in the Civil War.  He founded Decoration Day, which later became known as Memorial Day, a day to honor all of those who have died for our country.

Elsewhere, Sen Mark Kirk joined hundreds of people in Arlington Heights to honor service men and  women.

He  awarded a Bronze Star posthumously to World War II Army veteran Edward Arthur Field.

Arlington Heights has lost 58 soldiers in battle, dating back to the Civil War.

Cities across Illinois also marked Memorial Day with parades.

Governor Pat Quinn marched in Park Ridge, calling attention to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund.

The fund helps military families make the transition back to civilian life.

It provides affordable home loans, grants, and a mortgage tax credit worth up to 20-thousand dollars.

President Barack Obama gave a special salute Monday to Americans who lost their lives fighting in the Korean War, noting that it was the 60th anniversary of the conflict’s end. obamaarlingtoncemetery

“And over the last decade, we’ve seen the character of our country again,” the president said after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

He delivered Memorial Day remarks the week after addressing America’s controversial counterterrorism strategies and a rash of sexual assaults in the military that he said could threaten national security.

Obama arrived at Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery, amid a 21-gun salute, at 11 a.m. He was met by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, cemetery Executive Director Kathryn Condon and Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington, commander of the Army’s military district of Washington.

Linnington escorted the president to the tomb, where Obama laid the wreath and observed a moment of silence before speaking at the Memorial Amphitheater.

The president, who used last year’s occasion to pledge his support for Vietnam War veterans, spoke Saturday about the “1% of the American people (who) bear the burden of our defense.”

“They are heroes, each and every one,” he said. “They gave America the most precious thing they had, the last full measure of devotion. And because they did, we are who we are today: a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world.”

He continued, “They risk their lives, and many give their lives, for something larger than themselves or any of us: the ideals of liberty and justice that make America a beacon of hope for the world. That’s been true throughout our history — from our earliest days, when a tiny band of revolutionaries stood up to an empire, to our 9/11 generation, which continues to serve and sacrifice today.”

Obama further urged Americans to “do more than remember”: to care for the loved ones the fallen soldiers leave behind; to ensure that veterans have adequate care, jobs and benefits; and to support military missions at home and abroad.

The speech comes at a time when the administration is dogged by controversy. While facing tough questions about alleged IRS targeting of conservative groups and his administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Obama also answered questions last week about the use of drones, the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and sexual assault in the military.

In a Thursday speech, he said drones are a necessary evil but one that must be used more judiciously as the American security situation evolves. Per Gitmo, he said he would push Congress to allow him to shut down “a facility that should never have been opened.”

On Friday, responding to a Defense Department report that cases of unwanted sexual contact had jumped 35% between 2010 and 2012, Obama said the attacks threaten the trust and discipline that is the military’s backbone.

“That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes. Because they have no place in the greatest military on Earth,” Obama said during remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy.

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The remainder of the Memorial Day Weekend looks to be a cool and damp as  afternoon temperatures hold in the 60s both Sunday and Monday.

Clouds will dominate Sunday with showers and thunderstorms possible, especially in areas south and west of the city. The showers and thunderstorms will become more widespread over the entire area Sunday night and Monday.

Thunderstorms should depart early Tuesday  as a warm front passes. Gusty south-southwest winds deliver  hot and humid air that should send temperatures surging into the middle 80s Tuesday and then into the lower 90s for an extended Wednesday through Friday run.

Showers and thunderstorms should return by Friday and Saturday as a cold front approaches, raising the specter for some gusty storms accompanied by heavy rainfall.

Events across the Chicago area began Sunday to commemorate Memorial Day.

West suburban Naperville’s leaders dedicated a new memorial to our fallen troops this Memorial Day weekend.

The bronze sculpture stands in Exchange Club Veteran’s Plaza on the Riverwalk at Jackson Avenue just east of Webster Street.

It depicts boots, a rifle, a helmet and dog tags.

The sculpture was supposed to be a part of the plaza when it was built in 2008 but was eliminated due to cost. There was always an understanding it would be added in the future.

People were also out running for our troops and their families today in the western suburbs.

The 10th annual Got Freedom Race hit the road this morning in Arlington Heights. It’s put on every year by Salute Inc, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to military men and women.

Chicago’s Memorial Day remembrance began with wreath laying ceremony at the Eternal Flame in Daley plaza.

“I  think it’s very important on Memorial Day that we stop all of our activities and pause and remember the sacrifice that were made by men and women to defend our democracy.” Governor Pat Quinn said.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta served as Grand Marshal of Chicago’s Memorial Day parade which featured local marching bands, junior ROTC programs and various veterans’ organizations.

Hundreds braved the chilly temperatures and lined both sides of State Street in the country’s largest Memorial Day parade according to local officials. Many said they wanted to show support for those that have served the country.

“We remember those that have passed on and given all that they had, and I am proud to say that I have served my country favorably,” armed services veteran and parade attendee Larry Leto said.

The road trip you were planning this Memorial Day weekend could put a strain on your wallet.

Gas prices are averaging higher than Memorial Day weekend in 2012.

AAA said that the average price of gas is $4.20 in the Chicago area, and the gas prices peaked at $4.80 in some areas. However, some prices at the pump are much higher, especially in areas closer to downtown.

Some Midwest refineries are encountering problems which led to higher gas prices as well as a switch to summer blends to meet federal clean-air standards.

15,000 runners are expected to kick off their Memorial weekend by participating in the 10th annual Fallen Soldier Run.

The 10-mile race honors  fallen heroes across the country. It will start at Soldier Field, and finish on the 50 yard line inside the stadium.

Proceeds from the race benefit SALUTE, INC, a local charity whose goal it is to meet the financial, physical and emotional needs of military service members, veterans and their families.

“Salute picks up where the government can’t help, because there’s so many people who need assistance” said SALUTE organizer, Jackie Beck.

The event will start at 7 a.m., and end at 11:30 a.m with a post-race party.

The Chicago Memorial Day Parade will also take place today. Leon Panetta will be the Grand Marshall. “Chicago is proud to welcome one of our country’s finest statesmen, Leon Panetta, to serve as the Grand Marshal of our Memorial Day Parade,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a press release.  “As Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense, Leon not only worked to protect our freedoms from threats overseas, he expanded our freedoms at home, ending ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ and allowing women to serve in combat roles. It was a privilege to work with him and it will be an honor to have him with us in Chicago on Memorial Day.”

The parade will kick off at at noon and proceed south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street.

By noon today, the mad dash to get out of Chicago had begun and cars were bumper to bumper all afternoon inching slowly to their destinations.

There are lots of drivers, but not as many last year. AAA estimates 35 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday weekend, down nearly 10% from 2012.

Experts believe the reason is partially due to high gas prices.

The average price for regular in Chicago is about $4.40 gallon, 12 cents higher than last year.

On the flip side, higher fuel isn’t affecting air travel. The Chicago department of aviation is expecting 2 percent more travelers this year than last.

Many tourists have come to Chicago as well, as Kayak has ranked the city the second-most traveled destination over Memorial Day behind Las Vegas.

Additionally, the city’s beaches opened for the season today and will remain open from 11am – 7pm through Labor Day.

There will also be a series of events taking place in the city.

On Saturday, fallen soldiers will be remembered and honored in a parade on State Street. It begins at noon and takes place between Lake and Van Buren.

On Sunday, Lake Shore Drive shuts down to traffic at 5:30am for the annual Bike the Drive event.