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The Capital City Pauses For Memorial Day

Updated: Tuesday, May 27 2014, 10:32 AM CDT

SPRINGFIELD -- Hundreds gathered at Oak Ridge Cemetery for the annual Memorial Day tribute outside the War Memorials.

People stopped by Camp Butler all day, leaving flags and flowers. But Monday Morning it seemed like time stood still as one hero of war made her way to the podium nearly 10 years after a tragic accident changed her life forever.

"Today. Memorial Day. Is a time to honor our fallen heroes," said Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth.

Lt. Colonel Tammy Duckworth is a hero to veterans and people across Illinois.

It was 2004 when she became the first women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but that changed on November 24 when her helicopter was hit by an RPG.

"I made it home and I really feel like if I were to live everyday bitter, or sad, it would be a real dishonor to the men who saved my life," said Lt. Col. Duckworth.

Duckworth lost her legs and partial use of her right arm, but she stood before a crowd at Oak Ridge Cemetery, leaving her wheelchair behind. It was all to share a story about a man named Bill Chaney.

Chaney was 59 years old and re-enlisted to train soldiers in Iraq. Unfortunately, he never returned home.

"So many men like Bill didn't make it, and Bill was a Vietnam Vet. He didn't have to got to Iraq and he chose to, to go with the unit. So I say a special prayer for all the men and women who didn't come home," said Lt. Col. Duckworth.

And on this Memorial Day, many veterans have a similar story of those lost too soon.

"I was fortunate. I was overseas and I came back under my own power. Thank god, but there was a lot of them that didn't make it," said Johnie Knolas, an Army Veteran.

Knolas paid tribute the only way he knows how. By reflecting on the names sketched in the war memorial.

"Anytime we see another veteran we're brothers. Once a solider always a solider," said Knolas.

Nearly every veteran greeted Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth after Monday's ceremony. Since her accident she has ran several marathons, gone surfing, skydiving and even ran for political office.

Duckworth remains a member of the Illinois Army National Guard to this day, along with her husband who has served since 1987.

The Capital City Pauses For Memorial Day


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