ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Monday marked the 153rd Memorial Day. The first tribute to fallen soldiers was held in 1868. Before that, it was known as “Decoration Day.”
Flowers, wreaths, and flags decorated the graves of those who died in service to our country.
Here in the Stateline, a different tradition continues.
Rockford musician Harlan Jefferson played his saxophone to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice. He believes more people should come together to pay their respects on Memorial Day.
A small crowd gathered on the Sinnissippi Recreation Path Monday afternoon to listen to Jefferson’s rendition of taps.
“As an artist, I want to always try to give back where I can. And this is something worth celebrating. Men and women of service, giving their lives for us, our freedom,” said Jefferson.
The performance was one of the thousands happening at the time as part of the “Taps Across America” Memorial Day celebration. For the past two years, musicians across the county have stepped up to take part.
“They say that music is a universal language, and I believe that,” Jefferson said. “When we share and hear each other’s music, it’s just talking to you, you know? It’s beautiful, make you cry, sad, or happy.”
Many in the crowd wore red, white, and blue while some stood in salute throughout the performance. We caught up with several residents who stopped by to listen. They say it was a strong showing of solidarity.
“It’s really good just to see a full circle, everybody here coming to see and paying respects to people even that did show up,” said Zoie Harrison.
“I think it’s cool to see Rockford come together and be able to support one another and honor one another. I think it’s a really powerful moment of unity, for sure,” added Tatiana Mata.
Moving forward, Jefferson wants to expand the tradition to further honor those who lost their lives serving our country.
“I’m planning on doing this every year, and hopefully in years to come, we’ll have more of a festival thing going on other than just me out here playing. Maybe have some national guards. Whatever we have to do to make it great. Not to take away from anything else that is going on, but maybe do things a little bit differently,” Jefferson added.