Sikhs join Memorial Day Parades in Chicago, Schaumburg, and Naperville, Illinois

Sikhs participating in the Memorial Day Parade May 30, 2022, in Chicago, recite the Ardas before the parade begins. Photo: courtesy organizers

Scores of Sikhs joined the Memorial Day Parade in Chicago, May 30, 2022, highlighting their contributions during the World Wars and honoring others who made the ultimate sacrifice for their homelands.

Featuring floats and banners, the Sikhs in Chicagoland have been participating in the Memorial Day Parade since 2012. This year, members of the American Sikh community from all over the area came together and participated in three separate events in Chicago, and the Villages of Schaumburg and Naperville,” Sarwan Singh, the key organizer, is quoted saying in a June 7, 2022, press release.

Following a wreath laying ceremony at Daley Plaza, downtown Chicago, the parade on State street attracted large crowds who lined the route to pay their respect. The parade was broadcast live on local TV on channels like ABC TV-7.

Chicago hosts one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the Nation since 1870, according to the press release. Among the  several marching bands, ROTC cadets, uniformed soldiers, Veteran Groups, military jeeps and Humvee vehicles that roared along the route of the parade, were floats being driven by Sikhs that highlighted the fallen Sikh soldiers during World Wars I & II.

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

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

“Thunderous applause by the spectators welcomed and thanked the American Sikh community as they marched in parade with red turbans and matching shirts,” the press release said.

At the May 30, 2022, Memorial Day Parade in downtown Chicago, Rajinder Singh Mago, holding U.S. flag, with Canadian army officer Harpreet Singh Dipak, center, and Jasmeet Singh holding the Nishan Sahib, pose for photo opportunity. Photo: courtesy organizers.

Leading the parade was a U.S flag carried by long time community activist and leader 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. ally currently in crisis.

Sikh Community members were welcomed and saluted by the high ranking Armed forces officers on the review stand of the main stage.

After the parade the participants were treated with langar and ice cream at the iconic Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

When the American Sikh Community approached the review stand, the master of ceremonies made the following announcement- 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.

Notably, in the U.S. Army, Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind served in the First World War. Sikhs served during two World Wars in the Canadian and Australian armies as well.

According to some historical writings quoted in the press release, some 83,005 turban wearing Sikhs were killed and 109,045 were wounded

Memorial Day Parade in Naperville, Illinois where Sikhs participated May 30, 2022. Photo: organizers

Since 2011, Sikhs have been participating in Memorial Day commemorations in the Village of Schaumburg, at the Saint Peter’s Church, with a two-year hiatus during COVID. This year in 2022 Memorial Day ceremonies were resumed and the Sikh community participated as usual.

Amrik Pal Singh and Avtar Singh Aulakh were the main coordinators in Schaumburg.  Posters showing Sikhs serving in World Wars along with famous quotations about the Sikh soldiers, by the British army officers, British historians and then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 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.

2022 Memorial Day Parade in Chicago showing Sikh community members holding up posters remembering the role played by Sikhs in the two World Wars. Photo: organizers

For the first time, Sikhs participated in the Naperville Memorial Day parade downtown Monday May 30, 2022. An elaborately decorated main float along with other floats representing Sikhs and their contributions, joined the Naperville parade with 40 members of the local Sikh community, aged 5 to 80 years, took part. They marched for one mile with Mago and Roger Singh Chawla holding up the U.S. flag, followed by Nishan Sahib and the Ukrainian flag. Among the forty five different entries, which included school bands, antique cars, and military jets, there were thousands of people watching the parade. At the end of the parade, everyone in the Sikh community helped pack up the float followed by traditional langar meal which was shared among the volunteers and anyone else who wanted it.



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