News Local/State

Lincoln’s Challenge Memorial Day Ceremony Focused On Solemn Remembrance


Relatives of fallen service members honor their memories Friday at an early Memorial Day ceremony at Lincoln's Challenge Academy in Rantoul. David Mercer/WILL

Lincoln’s Challenge Academy Director Peter Thomas worries that Memorial Day has lost some of its meaning.

At a ceremony at the Rantoul-based military program for troubled teens on Friday, Thomas recalled Memorial Day as a holiday when stores closed and Americans gathered to remember those who died serving their country.

 “Memorial Day meant ceremonies at cemeteries around the country, laying of wreaths and playing of ‘Taps’,” Thomas said.

On Friday, though, close to 100 people gathered to watch the program’s roughly 130 cadets lead the ceremony.

It included a color guard made up of eight of the cadets.

A color guard made up of cadets from Lincoln Challenge Academy, at the program's Memorial Day ceremony, held Friday on the Academy grounds in Rantoul.

David Mercer/Illinois Public Media

“Color guard! Center, face! Forward, march!” the leader of the color guard commanded.

And, along with prayers for those being remembered, hymns were sung as flags snapped in the breeze.

Those honored Friday included six Lincoln’s Challenge graduates killed while in the military.

“Let’s not forget those who made the sacrifices so that we can be here this afternoon,” Thomas said.

While Memorial Day focuses on those who have died in service to their country, Thomas provided steady reminders about the cadets now enrolled in the Lincoln's Challenge program. The current group will graduate in June, and he said the program will be there for them even after they leave.

More Memorial Day ceremonies are planned around the area on Monday.