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SILVIS — The annual Memorial Day weekend observance at Hero Street took an especially moving turn Saturday with a performance by retired opera singer Tonio DiPaolo.

The world-class tenor sang several patriotic songs, bringing many in the crowd of about 200 people to tears. He referred to his appearance as his way of “giving back” to small communities. Having lived and worked in several of the country’s major cities, DiPaolo now lives in Taylor Ridge.

“Another first for Hero Street U.S.A., an opera singer,” said event organizer and Silvis Alderman Bob Cervantes, D-1st Ward.

Navy veteran Brian Munoz also earned the crowd’s appreciation, announcing that he is one of nine members of his family from Hero Street to serve in the armed forces.

He referred to the tiny stretch of homes along the street as “sacred ground,” adding that the eight men from his neighborhood who died while serving their country “… were warriors, a credit to their families and their country.”

Munoz also spoke of two fellow soldiers who died while serving in the War on Terror, saying, “My brothers died to ensure our way of life.”

Other speakers at the observance included:

- Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who acknowledged a member of the audience, Bill Albracht, a Republican from Moline who is opposing him in this fall’s general election.

“He is a veteran and I appreciate that,” Jacobs said.

He also thanked organizers and supporters of Hero Street, saying, “Maybe next time I won’t be here, so I want to say thank you.”

- U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., who said he often wears his Hero Street pin in Washington, D.C., and appreciates the opportunity to tell people the story behind the monument in Silvis.

“I tell them about eight heroes who served a cause greater than themselves,” he said, adding, “(Without them) we might not be speaking English, as far as that goes.

“It’s truly an honor to be on this holy ground.”

- Brig. Gen. Kendall W. Penn, deputy commanding general of the First Army, stationed at Arsenal Island, who referred to a Chinese proverb that suggests anyone drinking water from a well should thank and remember those who dug it.

“Today is about thanking those who dug the well,” he said.

After the observance, a luncheon was held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in East Moline, and Cervantes said people still were talking about the performance by DiPaolo.

“They keep asking, ‘Where did that guy come from?’ ” he said. “He’s already agreed to come back for Veterans Day.”

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