DOWNTOWN — Every year since his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2003, Jim Frazier has read the names of Illinois soldiers killed in combat as a wreath was laid at the Eternal Flame in Daley Plaza.
But this year, with no Illinois soldiers killed in action, Frazier stood in front of a crowd of 200 for a different reason: to accept the Major General John A. Logan Patriot Award, given to him for his dedication to Illinois Gold Star Families.
“This is hard,” he said. “This is an honor I’ll take with me for my whole life.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier was killed on March 29, 2003, in Afghanistan during a small-arms gun battle. Since then the elder Frazier has worked with families of fallen service members, counseling them as part of the Army’s Survivor Outreach Services program.
“We are a club, first of all, that no one wants to join,” Frazier said at the ceremony that preceded Chicago’s Memorial Day parade Downtown. “But when we are together…we’re walking the same path…we’re on the same journey.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said while Memorial Day weekend is full of activities like beachgoing and barbecues, the ability to enjoy them came with a price.
“Underneath every single one of those activities is the uniqueness of our abilities to enjoy our freedoms, and those freedoms were paid for by our veterans and those who served their country,” he said.
Frazier, who has also advocated for better care for veterans, said it’s important "that as a society we remember the people that gave their lives."
After the four wreaths were laid at the Eternal Fire, the parade headed south down State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) at the helm serving as the grand marshal. Duckworth was serving in Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot when her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in November 2004, causing her to lose her legs.
Eva Hawking, 48, became overwhelmed with pride and sadness as she walked in the parade with the Gold Star Families in remembrance of her son, Nickolas Daniels, a 25-year-old Marine killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011.
She wore a T-shirt bearing her son’s image and the words, “Always forever in your heart.”
As she comforted her own mother, she was reminded why her son died.
"He died for what he wanted to do, serve his country. All Gold Star moms feel the same way when they see the dedication and the accomplishments just going all out for the country," she said.