Established in 1835, Marseilles is located in northeastern Illinois and home of the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial. The memorial honors those Americans who have paid the ultimate price to preserve freedom. Over the past 10 years, the collection of names added to the memorial’s display has continued to grow as those in charge of the memorial look forward to the day the final name is added to the collection.
The brainchild Jerry Kuczera and Tony Cutrano, the granite structure was constructed to honor the memory of the service personnel who have given their lives since 1979 in worldwide conflicts. Dedicated on June 19, 2004, the memorial is comprised solely of donated materials and labor.
The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial is the first of its kind in US history to be erected while the conflict it honors is still ongoing. In comparison, twenty years elapsed between the end of the Vietnam Conflict and erection of the Vietnam War Memorial. That timeframe, however, is dwarfed when compared to the 60 years between the end of World War II and the dedication of the memorial honoring the Greatest Generation.
Included in the list of names engraved on the memorial’s walls are fallen heroes who gave their lives, not only in the current Middle East conflicts, but also in Panama, Lebanon, the Balkans, Grenada, Somalia, Haiti, on the USS Cole and the USS Stark, and the terrorist attacks in Italy, Greece and Scotland. Serving as a sobering reminder of these conflicts, the memorial is updated with new names every two years. At last count, the quantity of inclusions on the wall number 5,670.
Each year on the third Saturday of June, an act of remembrance for these fallen heroes occurs as the annual “Freedom Run” rolls out. Composed of tens of thousands of motorcycles, the riders make their way to Marseilles along a route lined with a multitude of Americans waving flags and paying their tribute to the individuals listed on the wall. Money raised from the event is used to maintain the memorial.
Ray Prokaski, Sr., president of the Illinois chapter of the Freedom Run states the memorial is not strictly for Illinois residents. Instead, “It’s for anyone in the United States who has lost somebody.”
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Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial - 6219 W. 127th St. - Palos Heights IL 60463