SYCAMORE, Ill. (WTVO) — Veteran volunteers stood watch for 24 hours on the front lawn of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore last Friday, as part of a time-honored tradition to remember those who served the country.
“After the Vietnam era, I heard there was a lot of disappointment for veterans, and they were embarrassed to wear the uniform,” said Ronald Slavenas, who stood guard for the first shift.
“This has changed a lot, I think,” he added. “People are much more appreciative [now] of the Armed Services.”
Frank Beierlotzer, of the DeKalb County Forty and Eight, said, “Veterans Day, most people think is a holiday, and a way to say ‘thank you’ to veterans. But they can say ‘thank you’ to veterans any day of the year.”
For a full 24 hours, the veteran volunteers stood watch over a memorial on the courthouse lawn, surrounded by more than 130 American flags.
“Sometimes, that hour stance each person does can be in winds, snow, sleet and rain,” Beierlotzer added.
“A lot of thoughts go through your mind. You’re thinking about all the difficult times we’ve had, historically, with war, and how many tragedies it has caused,” Slavenas said.
Slevanas, an Army veteran, says he has taken part in the event for nearly a decade. At 84-years-old, he says his heath issues have made it tougher now than it used to be, to stand guard.
“It’s not always easy for me, but as long as I can do it, I will be with it,” he said. “Veterans mean a lot to me, personally, and I’ve got a network of friendships with veterans.”
Part of his motivation to keep participating is to honor three of his sons, who also served.
“My oldest son, Eric Slavenas, was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, who did the Granada invasion. And my second son, Marcus Slavenas, was in the Marine Corps, Marine recon. He fought in Fallujah. So, we have a history of service,” he said.
Slavenas’ youngest son, Brian, never returned home. He was killed in Iraq.
“He was a chopper pilot, a Chinook pilot, in November of 2003,” Slavenas said.
He says too many military members have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and added that he’s holding out hope for a day when new recruits are no longer needed.
“Technically, we shouldn’t have any wars. We should plant trees and flowers,” he said, adding that he’s not optimistic peace is coming any time soon.
“Sometimes, we can’t help it. We have to serve when we’re threatened. That’s what it’s all about, you know?”