CHICAGO: Memorial Day in America honors all men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country protecting our freedom. The sun-drenched day started with a wreath laying ceremony at Daley Plaza remembering over 1.2 million heroes, followed by a parade on State street. Large crowds of people lined the parade route to pay their respect. The parade was broadcast live on local TV on channels like ABC TV-7.

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Schaumburg IL Sikh Contingent waiting

“The American Sikh community has been actively participating in Chicago Memorial Day ceremonies and parades since 2012. This year in 2022 the members of the American Sikh community from all over the area came together and participated in three separate events in Chicago Downtown, Villages of Schaumburg and Naperville,” said Sarwan Singh the key organizer.

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Chicago hosts one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the Nation since 1870. There were several marching bands, ROTC cadets, uniformed soldiers, Veteran Groups, military jeeps and Humvee vehicles that roared along the route of the parade. Amongst all of the marching bands there was one of the well decorated float by the American Sikh community that highlighted the fallen Sikh soldiers during World Wars I & II.

Sikh community is known for their contributions to the Armed forces and acts of bravery. Sikh soldiers have always been in the battle forefront where thousands were martyred while serving and protecting the nation during World Wars I & II.

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Naperville IL Sikh Contingent waiting to start parade

A special bus was arranged on Saturday May 28 from Palatine Gurdwara which carried the volunteers to Chicago downtown for the Memorial Day Parade. Several other members drove from all over the suburbs to participate in the parade.

Sikh Ardaas (Sikh Prayers) was performed by the group. Parade started at Lake and State Streets, marching Southward on State Street ending at Van Buren.

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Thunderous applause by the spectators welcomed and thanked the American Sikh community as they marched in parade with red turbans and matching shirts. Leading the parade was a U.S flag carried by Rajinder Singh Mago and a visiting uniformed military officer Harpreet Singh Dipak, who is a turban wearing Sikh and currently serving in the Canadian armed forces. A Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag) carried by Jasmeet Singh along with a flag of Ukraine carried by Gurmeet Singh, symbolized solidarity and support for the U.S. allied nation that is currently going through a very tough time due to the war. Sikh Community members were welcomed and saluted by the high ranking Armed forces officers on the review stand of the main stage.

The American Sikh community was cheered with continuous claps and honored for participating in the Chicago Memorial day parade. After the parade the participants were treated with langar and ice cream at the iconic Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

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When the American Sikh Community approached the review stand, the master of ceremonies announced:

Sikhs have been living in the USA for more than 120 years and during the 20th Century, thousands of Sikh American worked in farms, in lumber mills and mines and on the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern Railroad. Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world and there are more than 30 million Sikhs worldwide and an estimated over 500,000 Sikhs live in the USA.

 Sikh Americans pursue diverse professions, and make rich contributions to the social, cultural, and economic vibrancy of the United States, including service as members of the United States Armed Forces and significant contribution to our great nation in Agriculture, information technology, small business, and medicine and trucking industries. Sikhs served in both World Wars under the British Army, Marine and Airforce.

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In the US Army Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind served in the First World War. Sikhs served during WW’s in the Canadian and Australian armies as well.

 British General Sir Frank Messervy wrote in his book, "The Sikh Regiment in the Second World War" that in a secret dispatch of 1851 by the Governor General of India indicated that the British government required all Sikh recruits to wear their hair and beards unshorn as prescribed by their faith.


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Naperville IL Sikhs Decorated Float in the parade

 Secondly, the American Sikh Community has been participating in Memorial Day in the village of Schaumburg since 2011 at the Saint Peter's Church located at 202 E Schaumburg Road in Schaumburg, Illinois. Due to Covid19 no functions were held in 2020 and 2021. But this year in 2022 Memorial Day ceremonies were resumed and the Sikh community participated as usual.

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Chicago Float Sikh Contingent, RS Mago, Officer Dipak Jasmeet Singh

Amrik Pal Singh and Avtar Singh Aulakh were the main coordinators in Schaumburg, who made sure that the American Sikh Community was well represented. Posters showing Sikhs serving in world wars along with famous quotations about the Sikh soldiers, by the British army officers, British historians and PM Churchill’s, were displayed in the park. Financial contributions were also made to the village of Schaumburg for this event along with Indian food refreshments like Tandoori Chicken and Samosa’s at the outdoor picnic after the ceremonies.

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Naperville IL Sikhs, Dr. Benny White an US veteran and Naperville village councilman in the parade with Sikhs

Thirdly, this year the American Sikh Community participated for the first time in the Memorial Day parade in Downtown Naperville Illinois on Monday May 30th. During this parade, the American Sikh community again joined the residents in honoring the fallen soldiers who gave their life for the freedom of their nation. The day started by setting up a float which was very extravagant and had lots of decorations. Along the sides of the float, there were pictures which represented the contributions of Sikhs in World War I and World War II. There were around 40 members of the American Sikh community aging from 5 years to all the way up to 80 years old who participated in the parade. The Sikh community participants were wearing matching shirts that had the American flag and wore red turbans. Sikh prayers were offered for the wellbeing of all. The Sikhs then marched for one mile in front of the float holding the US flags by Rajinder Singh Mago and Roger Singh Chawla, followed by Nishan Sahib and the Ukraine flag.

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Langar after the parade

Among the forty-five different entries, which included school bands, antique cars, and military jets, there were thousands of people watching the parade. The spectators also wore the colors red, white, and blue which gave an impression of a big American flag across the whole parade. The crowd clapped and waved at the Sikh community for commemorating the fallen soldiers. The crowd also thanked the Sikh community for their contributions in the world wars. At the end of the parade, everyone in the Sikh community helped pack up the float followed by Langar which was shared among the volunteers and anyone else who wanted it. 

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