In honor of Memorial Day, the Assyrian Cultural Foundation would like to pay its respect to all who lost their lives in military service. Since we are located in the Chicago area, we would like to highlight the history of a local Assyrian war memorial.
The United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941. During that time, approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Assyrians lived in the Chicago area. Unsurprisingly, once the war began, many Assyrians enlisted in the U.S. Army to help defend their country. This even included women, many of whom organized an Assyrian unit of the American Red Cross.
Fifty years later, in 1992, an 81-year-old Assyrian WWII veteran, John Hosanna, dreamed of preserving the legacy of his fellow Assyrian veterans. He began raising funds to create an Assyrian war memorial in the Chicago area. Because most Assyrian veterans were buried in Elmwood Cemetery and Mausoleum in River Grove, Illinois, he wanted to erect the memorial there.
For five years, Hosanna worked tirelessly to raise money for a future war memorial. He even partnered with the Assyrian American Association of Chicago to republish and sell a book that it had originally published in 1944, which listed most of the Assyrians from Chicago who served in WWII. Hosanna’s new book, published in 1993, listed additional pages of soldiers who were missing from the original book, including Assyrian soldiers from other parts of the country. Hosanna sold the book for $10, and used the proceeds to help fund the memorial. However, the majority of the money raised for the memorial was accrued from the generous donations of private individuals.
Sadly, Hosanna died in October of 1997, less than a month before construction on the monument began. The Assyrian AmVets Memorial was completed on May 16, 1998. You can visit it at Elmwood Cemetery, which is located at 2905 North Thatcher Rd. River Grove, Illinois 60171.
Written by Esther Lang
Assyrian Americans Who Served in the Armed Forced of the United States. Chicago: Assyrian American AmVets, 1993.
“Assyrian AmVets Memorial.” The American Legion. https://www.legion.org/memorials/238719/assyrian-amvets-memorial (accessed March 11, 2021).
Borsky, Daniel. “Veterans Hope to Set Memories in Marble.” Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1996. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1996-07-29-9607290187-story.html (accessed March 11, 2021).
“Elmwood Cemetery and Mausoleum.” Dignity Memorial. https://www.dignitymemorial.com/funeral-homes/river-grove-il/elmwood-cemetery-and-mausoleum/6246
Zielinski, Graeme. “Last Chance for Immortality.” Chicago Tribune. April 5, 1998. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1998-04-05-9804050286-story.html (accessed March 11, 2021).