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How Peoria is recognizing soldiers' sacrifices this Memorial Day Weekend

A Peoria veteran says Memorial Day is a time to recognize the people who gave their lives to protect American freedoms.

Phillip Burnett served in the Marine Corps from 1967 to 1971. He’s a member of Peoria’s American Legion Post 2.

“Freedom of speech, the right to assemble, all of those things are written in our Constitution,” he said. “If nobody stepped forward, you know, I don't believe that there would be the freedoms that we do enjoy today. And the people that put their signature on that piece of paper, are willing to give it all and some have.”

The American Legion Post 2 has several traditions for Memorial Day weekend: they plant flags on Soldier’s Hill in Springdale Cemetery, visit veteran’s homes and distribute poppies for donations outside Peoria businesses.

Burnett is also the Poppy Chair for the American Legion Post 2. He says the tradition is based on the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. The poem describes the aftermath of a World War 1 battle and the flowers dotting the battlefield.

“There was snow on the ground and [poppies grew] because of the blood in the soil, along with the other minerals that were there,” said Burnett. “It made this person write a poem.”

The American Legion has poppies outside of Peoria Walmart, Schnuck's and Hy-Vee locations. All the donations go to Illinois veteran’s hospitals.

The City of Peoria’s Memorial Day program, presented by the Peoria Memorial Association, is Mon. May 29 at 10:30 am. It starts at the Gateway Building on the Peoria Riverfront with music from the Peoria Municipal Band, followed by a Remembrance Ceremony.

Peoria American Legion Post 2, Peoria Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 814, the Peoria Chapter of the National Society of the Daughter of the American Revolution, Marine Corps League of Peoria, Peoria Navy Club Ship 34, Bartonville American Legion Post 979 and the South-West Kiwanis Club are all participating.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.