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History of the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery lies in the northwestern area of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, approximately 50 miles south of Chicago. It was dedicated and opened for burials in October 1999.

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is named after the 16th president of the United States and founder of the national cemetery system.

Early in the Civil War, on July 17, 1862, President Lincoln’s signature enacted the law authorizing the establishment of national cemeteries “…for the soldiers who died in the service of the country.”

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery has a memorial walkway lined with a variety of memorials that honor America’s Veterans from various organizations.

There are 15 memorials at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, most commemorating soldiers of 20th century wars.

History of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Squad

The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Memorial Squad had its first beginnings when several individuals met on July 15, 2003, to vote on a name for the new group they had formed. They decided on “Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Memorial Squad”. The purpose of the group was to Render Military Honors for veterans buried in the new Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. (Military Honors consists of: three rifle volleys, Taps, and folding and presentation of the American Flag.) This first group consisted of men and women, veterans and non-veterans. They decided to pattern themselves after the Fort Snelling Minnesota Honor Guard.

A second meeting occurred on August 19, 2003, when they met again to discuss setting up the group as a not-for-profit organization. They also decided to plan for their first service in early September. They had spent the summer training themselves, and then purchased their uniforms.

The first service was on Tuesday, September 9, 2003. The Tuesday Squad has served every Tuesday from then on. The other days still had no services rendered by the Memorial Squad.

A different group, the Wilmington VFW, had been Rendering Honors on Wednesdays, since the National Cemetery opened in October, 1999. They continue serving every Wednesday.

A Joliet Herald News columnist named John Whiteside was very instrumental in informing the public, and recruiting new members for the Memorial Squad. Information also spread by word of mouth, and personal connections. As time went on, and more members were recruited, they were able to add a Friday Squad who did their first service on Friday, May 28, 2004.

More members continued to join, and a third squad, the Monday Squad, did their first service on Monday, October 18, 2004.

Very sadly, John Whiteside passed away in January, 2005. As more members continued to join, the fourth squad, the Thursday Squad, did their first service on Thursday, June 16, 2005.

When a new member joins the squad and has completed their training, they can decide which day or days they want to serve. There are no requirements other than being physically able to perform the duties.

Recruitment continues even now, as we continually lose members due to illness, death, and moving away. All new members receive complete training (proceed at your own pace), and complete uniforms. The Memorial Squad supports itself with donations, and an annual Golf Outing.