Children played on a patch of grass in the shadow of Soldier Field until the sound of bagpipes to the north drew their attention, and that of their parents.
As the pipes approached, escorted by police officers on motorcycles and followed by thousands of Chicago Police Officers, parents implored their children to stop playing and line up on the curb to watch for their relatives.
"C'mon, c'mon!" one woman said while nudging a child wearing a paddy cap. "James, daddy's coming," another woman said to her child.
Once each year the officers in Chicago -- along with some from Cook County and a handful from the New York Police Department -- march past the Gold Star Families Memorial and Park at the lakefront near 18th Street. The park features a wall memorializing officers who died in the line of duty.
And though the parade, called the St. Jude Police Memorial March, is open to the public, it exists for police officers scattered across 22 patrol districts, three detective divisions and dozens of smaller units to honor their colleagues killed in the line of duty.
When an officer dies, his surviving kin becomes a Gold Star family, similar to the way families with armed services members killed in the line of duty honor their loved ones with flags bearing a single gold star.
The St. Jude Police Memorial March doesn't draw many members of the public and the police outnumber the family members who do attend. It also serves as a reunion of sorts, with officers from different parts of the city reuniting with others with whom they had once shared a watch.
Sunday morning, it seemed there were more children than adults, all outwardly proud of their parents and uncles and aunts and siblings. Some of the children wore dress coats with a Chicago Police Department patch sewn on, a miniature version of the formal dress or "Class A" uniform the thousands of officers wore for the parade.
Even many of the pets wore checkered collars, like the band around the crown covers worn by officers.
A few of the department's administrators, including Superintendent Garry McCarthy, watched from a viewing stand while the rest of the department walked past. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez were also on the stand.
Flags bearing either the district number or unit number were carried at the front of the formations that marched -- first past signs with photos of officers who died in the line of duty and then past the reviewing stand on their left.
The officers walked five across and relatives craned their arms and necks, trying to get cell phones in position to snap photos.
And as each unit passed, the flag was dropped horizontal as the unit's commander ordered his officers "eyes left!" and the unit raised their hands to salute.
Then the flag was raised, the officers were ordered to look forward, and the parade went on, with the unit flags collected near the review stand.
Mike Ryan, a 62-year-old boiler inspector for the city, was one of the civilians watching, drawn to the scene because his daughter Megan is a police officer working in the Chicago Lawn district. She wanted to be a police officer since she was a small child and is enthusiastic about her new career -- she graduated the academy two weeks ago.
"I was a little leery at first," Ryan said, noting that seeing the parade and talking to officers he knows from childhood and from his work for the city helped him feel better about his daughter's calling.
"They got each other's backs at all times, it makes me feel a little better.
“This is nice that they do this, this is pretty sharp."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun