Memorial Day was bittersweet in Forreston as the town remembered the 678 Forreston soldiers who have fought for our country from the Civil War to today. They also celebrated the completion of a monument to those men and women, two and a half years in the making.
"It means a whole lot. I get choked up once in a while, I really do," says Korean War Veteran Dave Snapp.
The veterans gathered in Forreston Monday returned from wars ranging from World War II to Iraq. The way we wage war may have changed with time, but the veterans say comraderie remains strong between them all.
"That's the heart of it. We all went through similar experiences and that draws us together," says Iraq War Veteran Josh Schemel.
They're also drawn together by memories of the friends who could not be here today.
"I lost my best friend over there. I think about him every day. You know every day you live you think about something and you don't forget those guys over there. You know you sleep with them you eat with them and you die with them," says Korean War Veteran William Boland.
U.S. Congressman from Illinois Don Manzullo was on hand to help dedicate the new memorial. He calls the ceremony a testament to America.
"Forreston is a snapshot of America. When a third of the town shows up, if not more, when people show up almost spontaneously, when they come here because so many have the names of loved ones inscribed on that magnificent memorial, that's what it's all about," says Congressman Manzullo.
And to the veterans it's all about the memories.
"You remember the times you've had. The friends that are with you now and the ones that are no longer. And it just it touches you," says Schemel.
Forreston's veterans' group began organizing and raising money for the memorial two and a half years ago. It cost around $30,000 and was mostly funded through donations from the community.
Corporal Snapp says he was touched because whenever he asked for donations from local businesses everyone gave generously and then would thank him for asking, not your average reaction when asking for money.
The group is also still selling memorial bricks displayed on the monument. Call 815-938-3421 to buy a brick.