Marine Staff Sgt. Eduardo Figueroa salutes the fallen as members of American Legion Post 699 look on Monday. (Photos  by Steve Metsch)

Marine Staff Sgt. Eduardo Figueroa salutes the fallen as members of American Legion Post 699 look on Monday. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Fallen veterans remembered at Lyons ceremony

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Richard Vachata holds a photo of his cousin Joe Horky, who died near the end of World War II, and the Purple Heart given to Horky’s parents.

By Steve Metsch

An event that happened 78 years ago is often on the mind of Richard Vachata, but especially on Memorial Day.

In 1945, his cousin, Joe Horky, made the ultimate sacrifice.

Horky, 21, died after a Japanese kamikaze pilot crashed his plane into his battleship in the Pacific, Vachata said. Horky, of Brookfield, was a Navy gunner, he said.

“He died 15 days before the end of the second world war,” Vachata, 85, said Monday after a somber Memorial Day ceremony in Lyons.

“I always think of him, naturally, on Memorial Day,” he said.

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Kevin Walsh, of Chicago Garda Pipes & Drums, played “Amazing Grace” during the ceremony in Lyons.

Reaching into his pocket, Vachata pulled out a faded photograph of Horky and the Purple Heart given to his parents after his death.

“I take these out of my drawer every year,” he said. “He was an excellent student, an accomplished violinist, the only son of my aunt and uncle.”

Vachata, whose late wife Marie was a mayor of Lyons, was among about 100 people who paid tribute to fallen veterans during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Lyons eternal flame, 7830 Ogden Ave.

The village and Emil Scheive American Legion Post 699 co-hosted the event.

“I thought it was fantastic being out here and paying tribute,” Steve Bukowski, 67, of Lyons, said of the ceremony.

Marine Staff Sgt. Eduardo Figueroa, commander of the recruiting station in Oak Lawn, presented a floral wreath at the eternal flame.

“To me, Memorial Day is reflecting on all those who came before us, who paved the path for us to be here,” Figueroa, 29, said.

Post 699 member Ed Metz, 70, of Lyons, served in the Army National Guard in Louisiana in the early 1970s. He called Memorial Day important because “this is for our men who died.”

During his comments, Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty said “each one gave their all. They gave us everything they had. They died defending our country, defending our liberties and defending our freedoms.”

Lyons’ eternal flame is “an unending, dedicated memorial to these selfless individuals,” he said.

Post 699 Commander Peter Stathakis thanked folks for attending “to help us recognize those who deserve to be honored today and every day.”

“We appreciate all those men and women who fought and continue to fight for our country,” said Stathakis, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War.

Post Chaplain Mike Klick prayed “for those who courageously laid down their lives for the cause of freedom.”

“Bless the families of our fallen troops and fill their homes and their lives with your strength and peace. … And be with those currently serving in our armed forces,” Klick said.

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American Legion Emil Scheive Post Cmdr. Peter Stathakis (left) and Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty spoke about honoring our fallen servicemen and women.

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