PHOTO STORY: Niles community comes together for Memorial Day
NILES – Community members of all ages lined the Main Street corridor in downtown Niles on Monday morning to pay tribute to those who have given their lives in military service.
Leading off the parade, after a delayed start, was the Niles Police Department, with members of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office not far behind doing choreographed maneuvers on motorcycles as the parade crept up the street. Also joining the parade was the royal court from the Four Flags Area Apple Festival, Niles Mayor Nick Shelton, both Niles High School and Brandywine Middle/High School marching bands, local businesses and members of Warrior’s Oath, a motorcycle group that is both made up of and supports veterans.
The parade began at North State and West Main streets, and worked its way through downtown to its end at the Silverbrook Cemetery’s Silverbrook Abbey.
Along the parade path, Odie Stewart, commander of the LaRue Messenger American Legion Post 26 of Niles, and Bob Ahrens, treasurer, along with representatives from Warrior’s Oath, stopped at the Niles History Center and crossed on the S. 11th Street triangle to put patriotic wreaths and ribbons out in remembrance.
On the Silverbrook Abbey’s stage, Stewart and Ahrens were joined by Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey and Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker, of Michiana Christian Embassy.
Whittaker opened the closing ceremony with a prayer.
“We thank you [Lord] that we stand here with our young people, this marching band, our children, and we stand out here in the free air thanking you, Lord, as the source of all freedom,” Whittaker said.
Ahrens thanked the veterans and patriots who were in attendance.
“The free, open air has been caused by our veterans,” Stewart said to the audience. “As the [American Legion] post was putting up flags in the past week [in the veterans’ section of the cemetery], there were many names I recognized.”
Stewart spoke about Joseph Nolan, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the Philippine-American War from 1899 to 1902.
“[Nolan] chose this place as his resting place,” Stewart said. “So, we honor him.”
Bailey spoke as well, honoring the families who have lost a loved one while they served in the U.S. armed forces.
“The grief of losing someone is a lifelong burden that never leaves you,” Bailey said. “On the last Monday of each May, we gather together like we are today to reflect on the lives of those men and women who unselfishly gave up their lie to help us preserve our freedom and our way of life.”