PHOTO STORY: Niles celebrates Memorial Day with parade, ceremony

Published 1:52 pm Monday, May 30, 2022

NILES — A vibrant string of floats, vehicles and city officials paraded down Main Street Monday morning in honor of the men and women who had given their lives in service to the country.

The city of Niles and the American Legion Post 26 hosted its annual Memorial Day ceremony and parade Monday. The parade featured many floats and guests including the Niles and Brandywine High School bands, the Miss Niles Scholarship Pageant, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and more.

The parade began at the corner of State Street and West Main before heading east on East Main to end at Silverbrook Cemetery. Following the parade, many in attendance made their way to the cemetery for a ceremony honoring the local men and women who passed away after serving their country. The ceremony featured a patriotic musical selection from the Niles marching band, a vocal performance of “God Bless The U.S.A.” from the Michiana Christian Embassy Pastor Rev. Jeffrey Whittaker and a speech from American Legion Membership Director Brian Mohlman.

“Memorial Day is not about picnics and parades – though there is nothing wrong wiith enjoying and celebrating our American way of life,” he said. “Memorial Day is about gratitude and remembrance.. It is about honoring the men and women who made it possible for us to gather here today in peace. The reason that there is a Memorial Day – the reason that we are gathered here – is to remember those who made our life, our way of life possible. They truly are the guardians of freedom.”

After the ceremony, the American Legion, in collaboration with the Niles Department of Public Works and Warrior’s Oath, a Dowagiac-based charity composed of military veteran-bikers, conducted a flag-raising ceremony at the grave site of Joseph A. Nolan (1857-1921), a U.S. Army Artificer and Niles native who was presented the Medal of Honor for military valor during the Philippine Insurrection. A flag pole was erected at Nolan’s grave site, adorned with an American flag and a Medal of Honor flag. A solar-powered light is affixed at the top of the pole to ensure that light never stops shining on Nolan’s resting place.

“It was one of the things that this organization did to come together as a community,” said American Legion Post 26 Vice President Darron Lewark. “The thing that we’re lacking in this country is a unified sense of patriotism and I think that having these veterans organizations come together to do little projects like this or even clean up the highway or something that has nothing to do with the military. Anything to get people away from the TV and doing things that are constructive.”