DeKALB – Frank Beierlotzer’s house is the one on his block that has an American flag outside. At night, the flag is illuminated. Displaying the flag is only one way Beierlotzer, of DeKalb, displays his national pride as a veteran: he is involved with many veteran associations and his largest annual project is to help plan Memorial Day events and services in DeKalb County.
After graduating high school, Beierlotzer served in the United States Army from 1964 until 1967. Twenty-two years later, he joined the Illinois Army National Guard and served for another 10 years.
In 1990, Beierlotzer was one of five people who created the Northern Illinois Veterans Activities Committee (NIVAC). In 2007, NIVAC became the DeKalb County Forty and Eight Voiture 207.
“I am a veteran, and I could have been one that didn’t make it,” Beierlotzer said. “It could have happened to anybody that was in the service. Celebrating Memorial Day is something that’s built into any verteran. Sometimes we quietly carry that patriotism, some days we boldly display it.”
Beierlotzer met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to discuss his involvement in veteran groups and how he is helping DeKalb County celebrate Memorial Day.
Milton: What is NIVAC?
Beierlotzer: We had three goals: to assist with the Northern Illinois Veterans Memorial in Kirkland, to promote Memorial Day throughout DeKalb County, and to promote interaction between veterans and the community. In 1992, we started Breakfast with the General, and it was renamed the Mayor’s Memorial Day Breakfast in 1994.
Milton: Why is there a focus on Memorial Day, instead of D-Day or the 4th of July?
Beierlotzer: All of the holidays are good, but Memorial Day is the day that we should remember those that died, those that made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives in service of our country. …At the time of starting NIVAC, Memorial Day had fallen by the side. Unfortunately, we had a war, but that helped to reinvigorate patriotism about the time that we started.
Milton: What do you do on Memorial Day?
Beierlotzer: I belong to many other veteran organizations as well, and I work with veteran groups and other individuals to help organize events for Memorial Day weekend. We still do the breakfast, but we’ve changed it so that the DeKalb County Forty and Eight have taken over the event. That started in 1997.
Breakfast is just a way for people to wake up, to kick start the day, it’s not a service. They can come out and have a good time, enjoy the company, and then go off to the Memorial Day services. …The original Breakfast with the General started with some phone calls the night before. We moved tables together and sat as a group. It was kind of spontaneous that first year.
Soon, we outgrew a small restaurant. So now we meet in the Jane Fargo Hotel in Sycamore because of our numbers being large. …We get a pretty good variety of people at the breakfast: veterans, non-veterans, elected officials, farmers, all different variations of occupations.
Milton: What do you do after the breakfast?
Beierlotzer: I am involved with driving the guest of honor, the speaker, around. He arrives on Sunday, and the next day is a full day. Memorial Day, my day starts at 5 in the morning and lasts until about 3 in the afternoon, going wherever the guest of honor goes. We go to the Joiner Cemetery, from there, we go to the DeKalb parade. Then we visit the Methodist church in Malta, where he speaks. There is a little parade there, and then we go to Genoa to their parade, where there is another service and he speaks again.
Milton: How do you select the guest speaker?
Beierlotzer: It’s randomly selected, but it’s through past experiences and connections most of the time. One time, I heard a lieutenant colonel speak at a conference, and I asked him to be the guest that year. ...This year, the VIP guest speaker will be Lt. Col. Christopher Clay of the US Army, professor of military science at Loyola University Chicago.
Milton: Is the speaker always with the Army?
Beierlotzer: No, we try to vary the service branches. But it seems to be easier to get an Army representative since there are more of them here. And of course, my contacts are all through the Army.
Milton: What do you do during the remainder of the year to promote activities for veterans?
Beierlotzer: I am involved with welcome home parades, Honor Flight Chicago, where we take World War II vets to Washington, D.C. for free to see their memorial, and veteran motorcycle rides. …Last year, we went to the Genoa Veterans Home and other retirement homes. There, we met with veterans and recognized them for their service. It was rewarding to watch their expressions. The other elders there participated and enjoyed the event as well.
Milton: What happens if it rains on Memorial Day?
Beierlotzer: You don’t cancel Memorial Day. Memorial Day still happens, rain or shine. ...We want people to come out for one or more of the events, whether we’re putting them on or somebody else is.
IF YOU GO
WHAT : Mayors' Memorial Day Breakfast
WHEN: 6:45 a.m. Monday, May 26
WHERE : Jane Fargo Hotel, 355 W. State St., Sycamore
INFORMATION : To RSVP, contact Frank Beierlotzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prepaid tickets cost $10 each and tickets at the door cost $15 each.