LVMCHG observes Veterans Day at Lansing Veterans Memorial

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by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (November 11, 2020) – Concessions to COVID required a cancellation of the traditional Veterans Day ceremony held at the Lansing Veterans Memorial on the Sunday before Veterans Day. But the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard would not let COVID prevent them from observing the day and “honoring our nation’s veterans: those who have fallen, those who have returned, and those who have yet to return.”

In a simple, private, “unceremonial ceremony,” a dozen members of the Honor Guard gathered in front of the memorial wall. They posted colors and posed for a photo to mark the occasion.

From left: Neil Venhuizen, Toney Rebeles, Fred Schrum, Ray Sellers, Jeff Schoettle, Jesse Gomez, David Conlee, Rich Dominiak, John Nicholson, Mike Sanow, Pete Matrenec, and John Ulaszek hold flags to commemorate Veterans Day 2020. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Neil Venhuizen plays taps while Honor Guard members—reflected in the memorial wall—salute and remember. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
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Since 1992 the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard has represented Lansing and the Lansing Veterans Memorial by executing ceremonies at services, parades, rallies, and dedications throughout the area. The award-winning troop has received thank-you letters from the American Museum of Military Vehicles, Congressman Jerry Weller, Munster Community Hospital, the Korean War National Museum, the Village of Lansing, Thornton Township, and a variety of schools, Boy Scout troops, and committees. In 2017 they were awarded 100th Anniversary of WWI Commemorative Community status from the United States government.

Just as important as the pomp and ceremony are the acts of service the Honor Guard performs—donating food and nonperishables to the Lansing Community Food Pantry, organizing fundraisers for veterans in need, and volunteering at St. Baldric’s events.

Amid the long shadows of a November afternoon, the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard salutes. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Rich Dominiak is one of the founding members of the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Since 1997 the LVMCHG has held an appreciation dinner with an Annual Appreciation Award presented to a member or supporter who has helped significantly during the past year. “We weren’t able to do that in May this year,” said Rich Dominiak, founding member of the Honor Guard. “And it looks like we’re gonna cancel the Christmas dinner as well.” Today’s gathering provided an opportunity to present the award—Pete Matrenec was the honored recipient.

Surrounded by friends and comrades, Pete Matrenec accepts the 2020 Annual Appreciation Award. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

A member of the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard since 2007, Matrenec participated in flag postings, parades, and other ceremonial events until a motorcycle accident three years ago. He almost lost his leg, and still uses a cane, but Matrenec found other ways to participate in Honor Guard activities. In 2019 he volunteered to serve as editor, printer, and distributor of the LVMCHG newsletter. He also uses his design and layout skills to create programs and other printed materials used at Honor Guard events.

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Rich Dominiak (on right) reads a list of Pete Matrenec’s (on left, with plaque) accomplishments and activities. “It’s a privilege to serve,” said Matrenec. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Following the presentation, as the afternoon cooled, Honor Guard members remained for another 30 minutes, swapping stories, sharing memories, and hoping for opportunities to serve again.

The Lansing Veterans Memorial is located at the southeast corner of Burnham Avenue and Glenwood-Lansing Road. It honors fallen soldiers from each of our nation’s wars. The open-air memorial can be visited at any time. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

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