NORWOOD PARK — Most people would run as quickly as possible, as far away as possible, from a rocket attack.
Not John Joyce.
Stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq, Joyce — a technical sergeant in the Air Force — ran toward the burning ammunition depot that had been attacked by insurgents in an effort to salvage as much as equipment as possible at the height of the war in Iraq in 2004.
"It is going to be an awesome experience," Joyce said.
Heather Cherone discusses the Norwood Park Memorial Day parade:
Joyce, who also served in the Marines, was also stationed in Baghdad as well as the United Arab Emirates as the crew chief for the Air Force's aircraft rescue service.
"It was a very rewarding experience," Joyce said. "I worked with outstanding service men and women and traveled all over the world."
Joyce, who lives near O'Hare International Airport with his wife and 11-year-old son Anthony, comes from a family of veterans. His father served in the Irish army, his son is a Marine who has been stationed in Nigeria as part of a humanitarian mission and his brother-in-law is a member of the Navy.
"I knew I wanted to join the military when I was knee-high," Joyce said.
Memorial Day should be observed as a solemn reminder of the sacrifice made by men and women who were killed in battle or while serving their country, Joyce said.
"It shouldn't just be a three-day weekend and an excuse to barbecue," Joyce said. "So many people don't understand what it is all about."
Joyce said he would especially remember the son of a friend and fellow firefighter who was killed in Iraq.
"But it is not only the soldier who should be remembered, but also their friends and family," Joyce said.
Now retired from military service, Joyce is a firefighter in Truck Company 28 in Bucktown.
Norwood Park Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bea McDonough said Joyce was selected as grand marshal because of his many years of military service — and his work to protect veterans' benefits while on leave from the Chicago Fire Department.
"He has accomplished so much," McDonough said.
The parade will step off at 11 a.m. at Onahan Elementary School, 6334 W. Raven St., and finish at Taft High School, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.