Women Veterans Lead Chicago’s Oldest Memorial Day Parade as Grand Marshal  

The Beverly/Morgan Park Memorial Day Parade is the oldest community Memorial Day Parade in Chicago. The parade, dedicated to honoring the people who have given their lives in military service to our country, was started in 1926 by Beverly Hills Post 407 of the American Legion.   

According to local historian Carol Flynn, the Beverly Hills Post paraded to Evergreen Cemetery on Memorial Day to decorate graves beginning in 1923. In 1926, the Post invited the community to participate in a parade up Longwood Drive to Ridge Park.  Joining the American Legion for that first parade were the cadets and band from the Morgan Park Military Academy; the Grand Army of the Republic; the Spanish American War Veterans; the Daughters of the American Revolution; Boy Scouts; Girl Scouts; the Girl Reserves of Morgan Park High School; and the band and the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) from Morgan Park High School, among others.   

BAPA took on a stronger role in 1979 while the American Legion still ran it, when the organization moved the Ridge Run to the same day. A local Kiwanis Club ran the parade in the 1990s, and by the end of that decade, BAPA had assumed the lead role.  

Today, our Memorial Day Parade and ceremony at Ridge Park continue, largely through the efforts of Carol Macola, a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Beverly/Morgan Park. Macola is active in Girl Scouting and military organizations, including membership in National Women Veterans United (NWVU). Members of that organization will march as the Beverly/Morgan Park Memorial Day Grand Marshal this year on Mon., May 27.  

 Serving under the motto One Voice, One Vision, NWVU is a network of women veterans across the nation with a history of past and/or present service in the United States Armed Forces in all branches of services, during War and peacetime. The organization’s mission is to advocate, educate and bond with all military women veterans with special emphasis on women who are disabled, homeless, at risk or returning from deployment, to ensure they are connected to appropriate direct services and resources as they return to employment, school and family.  

NWVU also mentors and lends leadership skills to youth programs such as the Girl Scouts, JROTC, Military Family Readiness Groups (FRG) and Gold Star families. They provide no-cost services to veterans including emergency assistance, peer support, health and wellness programs, and financial literacy, and make referrals to safe communities that provide proven programs that assist women veterans to maintain mental, physical, and spiritual health. 

NWVU members host events to educate women veterans of the importance and urgency to have annual screenings for breast cancer, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. They also host programs during National Women’s History Month, Women Veterans Day and Memorial Day, recognizing the past and present contributions of women veterans and their sacrifices. It is the only all-female veteran organization advocating for veterans. 

The Memorial Day Ceremony honoring the men and women in the U.S. armed forces who have given their lives in service to our country, is held at Ridge Park at 9 a.m. and includes the laying of the wreath, taps and a solemn remembrance of the true meaning of Memorial Day. The parade immediately follows the Ridge Run races and features military vehicles, the Patriot Guard, scout troops, area families, businesses, institutions, groups and many more. Applications for BAPA’s Beverly/Morgan Park Memorial Day Parade will be available soon at bapa.org. 

Neighborhood residents interested in volunteering to plan and present the parade, and local businesses interested in supporting the parade with sponsorship donations can contact the parade committee via bapa@bapa.org 

 

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