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Peoria veterans remember fallen soldiers with solemn ceremony

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PEORIA (WEEK) -- Dozens of Peorians gathered this Memorial day for a solemn remembrance of fallen soldiers.

"When you hear 'Taps', live 'Taps', that sound is, if you've never heard it, it's breathtaking," Navy Club Ship 34 Commander Heath Williams said. "To me, you'll never forget it."

Friends and families marked the occasion with a emotional ceremony under the Murray Baker Bridge, near a monument for those who lost their lives in the line of duty.

"To remember those folks is very important," Peoria Heights Mayor Mike Phelan said. "We should never forget them."

Organizers laid a ceremonial wreath in the Illinois River and performed a 21-gun salute.

Veterans organizations including Peoria's "Navy Club Ship 34" put together the annual ceremony, meant to spread awareness for the holiday and to build community amongst veterans.

"I spent 20 years in the Navy, and I've had a few of my friends that have actually died," Navy Club member Tony Grow said. "Remembering them brings back memories."

For others, the event is a reminder that even though some are lost, they are never alone.

"When I see veterans, they're brothers. They're brothers, sisters," Williams said. "All of us are one. We are one team, one fight."

And for Mayor Phelan, the day also represents a call to action.

"Most of us know someone who was killed in the service, whether it goes back to World War I, World War II, Vietnam or any of the Gulf conflicts," Phelan said. "Take time if you have it to visit a cemetery, to visit a memorial to veterans."

But most of all, the ceremony helps keep the memory of fallen brothers and sisters alive.

"We had funeral ceremonies for the ones that we lost with the gun salute and the 'Taps', and it brings that moment right back to where it was," Grow said. "Like it happened yesterday."

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Alex Gaul

Alex Gaul joined WEEK 25 News and Heart of Illinois ABC in January 2021 as a Multimedia Journalist. He formerly worked for KPNX-TV and KAET-TV, both in Phoenix, Arizona. The Illinois-native is an alum of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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