ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago County lost 650 veterans in 2022, one of whom was Cpl. Nathan Carlson, 21, who was killed in an Osprey crash in California last year.

On Monday, Carlson was honored by the community at Rockford’s Memorial Hall, 211 N Main Street.

“I was honored that Mr. Lewandowski called and mentioned that he would like to dedicate the parade to Cpl. Carlson,” said Nathan’s uncle, Keith McDonald. “I called his mom and dad to clear it with them. And we’re so honored that they we’re still thinking of Nathan.”

Marine Sgt. Samuel Johnson, recruiter for the 4th District Marine Corps, was the keynote speaker at the Memorial Day event.

“Before every mission, we’re asked if we want to continue with the mission that we want to climb, and at any point in time, we can stop our flight duties and just become flight mechanics, regardless of the mission,” Johnson said. “Carlson never did this. He looked at every single one as an opportunity to help other people.”

Carlson graduated from Harlem High School in 2019 and was captain of the swim team. He went on to join the Marines that year.

“It’s really, really wonderful to see this kind of pride for our nation and also for so many people to appreciate what some of our veterans have sacrificed in order for us to be able to observe this Memorial Day,” Johnson said.

In 2020, Carlson earned his wings and became a naval aircrewman. He, along with five other Marines, were killed during a training exercise on June 8th, 2022.

“To quote sergeant Samuel Cortez, who gave Nathan’s eulogy from Winnie the Pooh, ‘Oh, how lucky we are to have something that we miss so much,'” Johnson said.

The Wingman Foundation flew Carlson’s family to the crash site in California.

On June 3rd, they will raise money for the foundation at Crazy Times Pub and Grub, 1520 Glen Forest Drive, Machensey Park, and the expenses it took to make it happen.

Hundreds of spectators lined up to catch a glimpse of Rockford’s annual Memorial Day Parade prior to the ceremony. The parade started Downtown before snaking its way down State Street, ending at Beattie Park.

Local veterans and high school students walked the route, giving thanks to those who gave their lives protecting the country.

“I, myself, am a veteran, so I find it with great honor that our community comes together to support our veterans that have fallen and, so, it’s something that we treasure and appreciate that our community is so supportive of all the veterans,” one person said. “We have a large majority of veterans, here in the Rockford area.”

“I’m really lucky, my husband and I are both Rockford natives, we’ve grown up here and really been blessed to be part of a community that celebrates our veterans and their organizations,” Alisha Barton added.

Rockford has held a Memorial Day parade every year since 1870. Only 2020 was missed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.