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Memorial Day

Veterans remembered for their sacrifice

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DANVERS — John Kraus had been a soldier in the U.S. Army for only 13 months when he was killed in a World War I battle on July 18, 1918.

He was the first McLean County soldier to die in the war. 

It was three years before his body was returned home to be laid to rest in Park Lawn Cemetery in Danvers. His funeral service attracted so many people — estimated in one Pantagraph article at about 1,000 — that it had to be held in the village park.

On Monday, Kraus' supreme sacrifice at age 18 was remembered as it has been for virtually every year since then at an annual Memorial Day service at his grave. While the crowd attending the service conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars post that took his name — John H. Kraus Post 454 of Bloomington — was not as large as the first, it did include four generations of his family.

"I've been coming out since I was about 10 or 11," said Dorothy Murphy, Kraus' niece. Her father, George Kraus, was John Kraus' older brother.

When she was a teenager, family members would meet at a relative's house in town and walk to cemetery carrying buckets of flowers to decorate the graves, Murphy said.

"We come out every year without fail," said Jennifer Murphy, Dorothy Murphy's daughter-in-law, who attended Monday along with her husband, Dorothy's son, Randy, and their son, Ryan, and Dorothy's daughter, Marsha Yates, and her husband, Jim. 

Ken Todd of Danvers also was at the service. While Todd said he didn't know John Kraus, he was a fellow serviceman. Todd is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the United Nations.

"I try to come out every year to recognize a fellow service member," said Todd. 

He learned about John Kraus when he was a member of the Lions Club and helped mark graves with flags.

Kraus' grave, like the graves of other veterans in the cemetery, was marked with a flag again this year. In addition, VFW Post 454, placed a wreath on Kraus' grave and three flowers — one white, one red and one blue — symbolizing purity, devotion and everlasting remembrance, and eternity, respectively. 

A seven-member honor guard fired three shots, and taps was played by a bugler during the ceremony.

Similar services were held throughout the country to recognize those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. In Bloomington, the day's events began with the annual Memorial Day parade.

Despite an earlier forecast for precipitation, only a short rain occurred at the start of the parade. The parade kicked off at Front and Madison streets and headed to Miller Park where a ceremony took place at the grandstand with keynote speaker McLean County Judge Robert Freitag, a veteran of the Iraq War.

Other services included one at the Korea/Vietnam Memorial at the park, at Evergreen Cemetery and at East Lawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Bloomington; in Delavan, Green Valley, Minonk, Saybrook and Rook Creek.

Follow Mary Ann Ford on Twitter: @pg_ford

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