Veterans Day ceremony at Soldier Field offers resounding: Thank you for your service

“We’re well known now, us World War II vets, because there’s so few of us left. It’s very rewarding being here. I really enjoy this. A little old corporal like me,” said Bob Holbach, 98.

SHARE Veterans Day ceremony at Soldier Field offers resounding: Thank you for your service
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Brigadier General Rodney Boyd pose with JROTC members at the annual Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony at Soldier Field. Friday, November 11, 2022.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Brigadier General Rodney Boyd pose for photos with JROTC members Friday at the annual Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony at Soldier Field.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

After serving in the Army in Vietnam, Andrew Brown worked as a school bus driver and he once asked the grade school kids on his bus what Veterans Day meant to them.

They gave him an innocent and honest answer: A day off school.

“I just laughed. I love kids. In Vietnam, I saw so many babies killed. I mean actually killed. And I just love kids,” said Brown, 84.

He recalled the experience during a Veterans Day ceremony Friday at Soldier Field.

“This day is a blessing. But it’s hard to say. It’s just hard to say,” said Brown, who lives in the Roseland neighborhood on the South Side.

Bob Holbach, 98, who lives near Irving and Pulaski on the Northwest Side, served in World War II.

“We’re well known now, us World War II vets, because there’s so few of us left. It’s very rewarding being here. I really enjoy this. A little old corporal like me,” he said. “I wish I could have had my wife here, too, she couldn’t make it. We’ve been married 74 years. She’s 95. And God’s been good to us, given us a good family.”

98 year old Veteran Bob Holbach attended the annual Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony at Soldier Field. Friday, November 11, 2022.

World War II veteran Bob Holbach, 98, attended the annual Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony at Soldier Field.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Army Sgt. Jared Simmons, in town to be part of a ceremony Sunday during halftime at the Bears game, took a moment to reflect on his service.

“All of these soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice are kind of the reason we can stand here today and enjoy all the things we do,” he said.

“And it’s a reminder that — hopefully not, but maybe — one day I might have to give that sacrifice as well. And it’s a reminder that there’s a lot of people who’ve done it and I’d like to think I’d do it too,” said Simmons, who is from Reading, Pennsylvania.

For Michael Panahon, who was in the Army and served in Iraq, the day fills him with pride.

“It’s pride in what I was able to do when I was serving. It was probably the best decision I’ve made for myself in my life to serve in the U.S. Army,” said Panahon, 41, who lives in Pilsen and works in the hospitality industry.

Being told “thank you” for your service is something he doesn’t take for granted.

“I appreciate it, for sure,” he said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presided over the event and noted that are more than 60,000 veterans in Chicago.

“They all answered the same incredible call to service. We stand in awe ... and we will never forget what they gave us today and every day as a result of their sacrifice and service,” said Lightfoot, noting that her sister is an Army veteran.

Brig. Gen. Rodney Boyd from the Illinois Army National Guard grew up on the South Side and gave a nod to the White Sox before imploring people on Veterans Day to show their appreciation.

“It’s a time to say thank you to a complete stranger,” he said. “Fighting for our freedoms. That’s significant. That’s something we should remember.”

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