Ceremony at Logan statue commemorates Memorial Day

Illinois native and Union Maj. Gen. John A. Logan is credited as the founder of “decoration day” to honor Civil War dead.

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Veteran soldiers salute after the wreath laying ceremony during the 26th Annual Major General John A. Logan Memorial Day Commemoration. Monday, May 30, 2022. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

On a warm, sunny Memorial Day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a small gathering of veterans and their families laid wreaths at the base of the statue of Maj. Gen. John A Logan.

The hour-long ceremony Monday marked the first time Lightfoot attended the small-scale commemoration since 2019 —though the event continued the last two years without official sanction from the city because of pandemic restrictions. The mayor gave a brief speech before ascending the small hill to lay a wreath at the base of the Logan monument.

Lightfoot’s last appearance at the event came months before Chicago recorded its first diagnosed COVID-19 case.

This year, the event followed the return of nighttime fireworks at Navy Pier, Saturday’s larger wreath-laying ceremony at Daley Plaza and a parade down State Street. Monday, pedestrians were out in force downtown as a stiff breeze cooled off the nearly 90-degree heat, and the lakefront was crowded with beachgoers.

The quiet section of the park where the Logan statue sits along the western edge of Grant Park on Michigan Avenue near East 9th Street attracted about 50 people.

Logan, an Illinois politician and Civil War veteran credited by many as the founder of Memorial Day by calling for a national “decoration day” for the nation to lay flowers on the graves of Civil War dead.

Installed in 1897 atop a grassy hill, the statue of Logan on horseback is among the 41 civic monuments being reviewed by the Chicago Monuments Project, a panel of experts charged with reviewing the status of edifices across the city dedicated to historical figures and events with controversial places in history.

Navy veteran Rodrigo Guzman and his wife happened on the ceremony while searching for Memorial Day events online. Guzman, who served from 2007 to 2016 —much of the time “wrangling Marines” at a naval base as a military police officer — volunteered to climb the staircase behind the rostrum and lay a wreath honoring the Navy.

Guzman said he has become involved with Carry the Load, a veterans organization that seeks to raise awareness of veteran’s issues and mental health care for returning military. Noting the high rate of suicide among returning veterans, Guzman noted the casualties of war do not necessarily stop with then end of combat.

“We were having a discussion, and it really is wild that Memorial Day (those that died) have this one day, and we get to have all the rest,” Guzman said.

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