Rear Admiral Zeita Merchant, U.S. Coast Guard, to Serve as Grand Marshal at City of Chicago’s 2024 Memorial Day Parade and Wreath Laying, Saturday, May 25

May 9, 2024

DCASE Communications

Ron Hall, Carol Fox & Associates

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CHICAGO — Mayor Brandon Johnson and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) are honored to announce the Grand Marshal for Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade and Wreath Laying Ceremony on Saturday, May 25. The Wreath Laying Ceremony will begin at 11am at Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington Street). The Parade will step off at noon and proceed south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street. Rear Admiral Zeita Merchant, U.S. Coast Guard will serve as the Parade’s Grand Marshal. Rear Admiral Merchant, who was born in Chicago, recently made history by becoming the first African American female promoted to flag rank in U.S. Coast Guard history.

This year’s Major General John A. Logan Patriot Award will honor André Richardson King; and the City of Chicago will acknowledge two Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) students with the Cadets of the Year Award: C/LTC Lorena Mozo of Farragut Career Academy and C/Capt Fernando Gonzalez of Marine Leadership Academy.

During the Wreath Laying Ceremony and Parade, the City of Chicago honors fallen heroes and Gold Star family members who have lost a loved one in the United States Armed Forces to combat operations or while on active duty. Approved by Congress beginning in 1947, Gold Star Lapel Pins and the Next of Kin Lapel Pins are presented to families not as an award, but as symbols of honor worn by family members in remembrance of their fallen loved ones and their ultimate sacrifice.

The Wreath Laying Ceremony at 11am will also be livestreamed at For additional information about the Wreath Laying Ceremony and Parade, visit


Parade Grand Marshal
Rear Admiral Zeita Merchant (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)Rear Admiral Zeita Merchant, a trailblazing military senior executive, has showcased visionary leadership throughout her distinguished 27-year career. As the recent Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York and Captain of the Port, she demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the safety, security, and sustainability of our Nation’s most consequential marine transportation system. Her unmatched operational expertise in leading large-scale, multi-jurisdictional incident responses solidifies her status as one of the Coast Guard’s top certified emergency managers and crisis response leaders.

In April 2024, Rear Admiral Merchant made history as the first African American woman promoted to flag rank in U.S. Coast Guard history, a testament to her groundbreaking career. Rear Admiral Merchant's operational excellence spans commanding maritime operations across Lake Michigan and along the Western Rivers and directing critical marine safety and security missions across an array of leadership assignments in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard. Beyond operational roles, her strategic insight has been pivotal serving as Special Assistant to the 27th and 28th Vice Commandants, House Congressional Fellow, and Executive Strategic Planner.

Rear Admiral Merchant was born in Chicago and raised in Jackson, MS. Her academic achievements include a Doctor of Business Administration, Master of Quality Systems Management, Master of Public Administration, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Her commitment to academic excellence is further exemplified by her fellowships at both Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Belfer and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Seminar XXI National Security and Foreign Affairs.


Major General John A. Logan Patriot Award
The Major General John A. Logan Patriot Award recognizes individuals for their dedication, patriotism and selfless devotion to Chicago’s citizens, veterans and nation’s military. This year’s award is honoring André Richardson King. Born in 1931 in Chicago, King held an interest in the military and the arts from an early age. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950 just before North Korea invaded South Korea, and used his G.I. Bill benefits to obtain a certificate of architecture from Chicago Technical College and a Bachelor of Arts in education from the University of Chicago. King ultimately went on to have a very long and distinguished career in architectural graphics and environmental design.

Over the last 10 years, King has been involved with planning and organizing National Pearl Harbor Day observances at Navy Pier, the Hyman G. Rickover Naval Academy, and at the Union League Club of Chicago. Based on his childhood remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he has been committed to educating the next generation on the importance of the attack on Pearl Harbor and honoring those who selflessly served and sacrificed their lives that fateful day.


Cadets of the Year Award
The mission of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) is to motivate young people to be better citizens. Each year the City of Chicago acknowledges the outstanding contributions of our cadets to our community by honoring JROTC students with the Cadets of the Year Award.

C/LTC Lorena Mozo, Farragut Career Academy, will be honored as the 2024 Female Cadet of the Year. Mozo has been chosen to hold a dual leadership role within the JROTC as the Battalion Commander and Drumline Commander. As a co-president of the National Honors Society, Mozo has also organized a care-package drive for migrant families recently relocated to Chicago, managed a food drive for Amor De Dios Church, supervised a blood drive, and hopes to pursue a career in law and public safety.

C/Capt Fernando Gonzalez, Marine Leadership Academy will be honored as the 2024 JROTC Male Cadet of the Year. Gonzalez has received a number of awards and special recognitions for his academic work, including Questbridge College Prep Scholar 2023, National Hispanic/Latino College Board 2023, AP Scholar 2023 and Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy from the Chicago Public Schools 2024. Gonzalez is pursuing a career in computer science.

The Memorial Day Parade will be emceed by Audrina Sinclair of CBS Chicago, who is the proud daughter of two U.S. Army veterans. Sinclair is an Emmy award-winning news anchor and reporter who joined CBS Chicago in 2015. Since then, she has been on the front line of some of the biggest breaking news stories in and around Chicago, and her coverage has led to multiple regional Emmy nominations. Sinclair serves the city in multiple other capacities with organizations like the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and Salt & Light Coalition.


Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) supports artists and cultural organizations, invests in the creative economy, and expands access and participation in the arts throughout Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. As a collaborative cultural presenter, arts funder, and advocate for creative workers, our programs and events serve Chicagoans and visitors of all ages and backgrounds, downtown and in diverse communities across our city—to strengthen and celebrate Chicago. DCASE produces some of the city’s most iconic festivals, markets, events, and exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, and in communities across the city—serving a local and global audience of 25 million people. The Department offers cultural grants and resources, manages public art, supports TV and film production and other creative industries, and permits special events throughout Chicago. For details, visit and stay connected via our newsletters and social media.


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