BY ANANYA MURALI–
Sunday, May 29 marks Shorewood’s 17th annual Memorial Day program at Atwater Park. The event typically consists of various student performances, from readings to music by students from the district’s band, orchestra and choir programs. Each year there is also a keynote speaker, either a retired military officer or veteran. The 2016 speaker was Saul Newton, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and is the founder and executive director of the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce.
Jan Zehren, SIS teacher, first got involved with the celebration in 2007, and currently coordinates this event each year along with the Shorewood Men’s Club and the American Legion Post. Zehren also coordinates the Veterans’ Day assemblies at the elementary and intermediate schools each year, and formerly worked on the 4th of July celebration and National Night Out for more than a decade.
“We work together as a good cohesive team to organize this event for the community,” Zehren said. “Having grown up in a military family, I’ve always had a love of country. My passion is thanking those men and women who have served our country. I try to instill that same passion with the kids that I work with.”
Zehren’s father served for 23 years during WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
The first year of the Memorial Day celebration was the year that the Shorewood Centennial Committee installed the permanent veterans’ memorial dedication plaque at Atwater Park as a celebration of the village’s 100th birthday.
“It’s so important that our kids understand our rich military history and why we have the freedoms that we have today,” Zehren said. “Getting my students involved makes me feel really proud when I go to an event and I see upwards of forty kids involved in an event for the community.”
Michael Braun, past commander of the North Shore American Legion Post, also helped to organize the first Memorial Day event in the year 2000. According to Braun, there were originally Memorial Day celebrations after WWI, but they fell apart due to a lack of interest.
“Through Jan, we’ve gotten more of the kids in Shorewood … and the community involved,” Braun said.
Joe Hughes, second Vice President of Special Events, has been involved with the Shorewood Men’s Club for 40 years and the Memorial Day event for eight years.
“It’s important to play a role in honoring a village that has served and given so much for the country. You can’t ever pay them back, but it’s certainly a way of honoring their efforts for the country,” Hughes said.
“One of the things I enjoy seeing every year is the high school band, which comes and provides wonderful entertainment,” Hughes said. “It really locks in the whole community aspect; we are all neighbors.”