John Whiteside would demand ‘rest of story’
Mary Jane Whiteside June 15, 2012 9:36PM
Mary Jane Whiteside for column mug at Herlad News office in Joliet, IL on Wednesday June 13, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:19AM
I feel the need to respond to the June 10 article, “Memorial squad members upset by changes at cemetery.”
I knew my late husband, John Whiteside, a former Herald-News columnist, would have much to say. No one ever had to guess where John Whiteside stood on an issue. There was no gray area; right was right and wrong was wrong.
Let me say that a few years before this Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery was built and opened, John traveled to Battle Creek, Mich., and visited a national cemetery in the area. He came home so excited and motivated. He believed that we in Will County had the perfect location and, certainly, the need to open a national cemetery.
There was a vast plot of government-owned land on which the Joliet Arsenal had been located. He took his idea to U.S. Reps. George Sangmeister and Jerry Weller. They were able, after a few years, to make this happen. It was through their leadership and perseverance that we have a serenely beautiful national cemetery for those who have so nobly served our country.
In the movie, “Field of Dreams,” the overriding theme is “build it, and they will come.” Once the cemetery was opened in 1999, John Whiteside began writing stories encouraging men and women of this and surrounding areas to volunteer their time to form the ALNAC Memorial Squad. Yes, he wrote the story, and they did come.
John continued to write as the cemetery grew and more and more volunteers were needed. Many of these men and women had served once, and chose to return voluntarily in spring, summer, winter and fall, to ensure that every brother and sister laid to rest received full military honors.
They did this without seeking special recognition or monetary compensation. They dutifully gave of their time in the “sundown” of their years, to bring solace and peace to families who brought their loved ones to their final rest.
We are now told that a law, which went into effect in 2000, gives the privilege of folding the flag to men and women presently in the Army National Guard out of North Riverside.
“The law requires the military to provide two members of the same branch as the deceased, for the flag folding duties at every veteran’s funeral.”
My questions are — as I know John’s would be — where were these men and women in 2000? They were not all fighting a war. And why is the government providing government vehicles, which come from North Riverside, with paid military, to do what retired veterans were doing voluntarily?
Combining the two groups has possibilities, when needed. But, to find out that officials from the Army National Guard unit in North Riverside are calling our cemetery officials to verify the number of military funerals scheduled each week in order to come down and — in my opinion — usurp the dedicated responsibilities of the existing Memorial Squad, makes me angry.
I know my late husband would find out “the rest of the story.”
Written with respect to all who serve — past, present and future.
Mary Jane Whiteside is
a Shorewood resident