ORLAND PARK, Ill. — Every year on Memorial Day, a veteran of the Vietnam War honors those who died serving their country with a display and decorations in the front yard of his South Suburban home.
Michael J. Zarembski and his wife moved into what they called ‘the perfect home’ 22 years ago in Orland Park, and every year since, the Zarembskis have added a little extra flair to their front yard.
“I care about my veterans, they’re my veterans,” Zarembski said. “They died over there, someone has to remember them.”
Before the age of 21, Zarembski was drafted into military service and served during the Vietnam War from June 1966, to June 1967.
After serving his country, he returned home and found it hard to adjust to life back in the United States, mostly due to how polarizing the war was viewed by the American public.
“I’m walking down the street the neighbours come over and they’re spitting on me,” Zarembski said. “It was hard spending a year out there and then being treated like that.”
So he turned his struggles into a mission to honor all who served, and in particular, those who never came home.
“At times it brings me to tears,” Zarembski said. “Why was I so lucky? Why not me? Why wasn’t I one of them? Why didn’t someone else get a chance to live and everything?”
According to Zarembski, the decorations always went hand-in-hand with a monthly trip to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. But at the ripe old age of 77 years old, Michael said his knees just can’t cut it anymore, so he focuses on his garden, and decorating for Halloween and Christmas after Memorial Day comes and goes.
“‘Hey mister, are you gonna do the Christmas stuff like last year?’” Zarembski said, reflecting on the questions neighborhood children ask him when the holidays roll around. “How do you tell a Kid no?”