Bridgeview rededicates Muehe Park

Bridgeview rededicates Muehe Park

Resident made “ultimate sacrifice” in Vietnam in ’69

By Steve Metsch

John Rigo never met Mark Muehe, but they have the Vietnam War in common.

Both served there in the Army. And the heart of Rigo, a Vietnam veteran who survived, goes out to the family of Muehe, a veteran who did not.

That was evident during Rigo’s impassioned speech that he struggled to get through, choking back tears with his voice breaking, during a rededication Saturday morning of Muehe Memorial Park in Bridgeview.

Rigo, elected officials, friends and family of the late Army corporal killed in December 1969, gathered in his memory at the park at 7151 Hartford St.

A Bridgeview resident for 30 years, Rigo thinks that, after researching Mark’s life, “if we knew each other, we’d have become very good friends.”

Rigo, 72, served one year in Vietnam. “It seems so long ago, but I still remember it as if it was yesterday.”

“There were no parades, celebrations, happy homecomings. We were met with protests, name-calling and other things we couldn’t understand. We were just doing our duty,” he said.

“Mark Muehe made the ultimate sacrifice,” Rigo said.

Gary Muehe (right) shares a story about his late brother Mark, who died in the Vietnam War, with Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek.

Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek noted the village lost two sons in Vietnam. A park on Oketo Avenue, north of 79th Street, named for the late Edwin Wierzba, was rededicated in November.

Muehe Park was first dedicated in 1980 for Mark. “It was the right thing to do,” Landek said.

“Both young men will be held in perpetual honor for what they’ve done, their perfect act of patriotism. Both men are honored equally and proudly,” Landek said.

Bridgeview Park District President Al Kruse said the park serves as “a reminder to us all of a brave soldier and a wonderful son.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski noted that Mark Muehe “could have done what others did, flee to Canada, but Mark went (to Vietnam). He said he had to go like so many others, who felt it was their duty to go and fight for our country and for freedom, even though there were those back here who didn’t appreciate that.”

“It’s good that we remember all of our Vietnam veterans,” Lipinski said. “Only the family knows the true pain, everything that could have been, when a man dies at 21. Fifty years later, I know it’s still painful.”

State Rep. Mike Zalewski thanked the family: “It seems like a very proper and elegant way to recall the memory of a young man who died serving his country.”

A large number of Muehe relatives, some from as far away as Ohio, attended the ceremony.

They sat on folding chairs beneath tents to ward off intermittent showers. On two of those chairs sat Mark’s younger brother, Bridgeview resident Gary Muehe, 66, and his wife, Diana.

“It’s humbling for sure. I’m honored. I’m sure Mark would be proud,” Gary said. “I was apprehensive, but it was very nice, a beautiful ceremony.”

Diana Muehe was glad “so many of Mark’s family could attend.” Although she never met Mark, she said “it is an honor to be related.”

“I’ve heard so many stories from his Gary and their parents. I know Mark was into fixing up cars and that he liked to bake with his mom. She told me his passion was sweets so, if he could help get some in the house, he was going to help,” Diana added with a smile.

Mark’s cousin, Mike Muehe, 63, of Steger, said Saturday “was tough” to get through. “He was a good guy. He was a favorite. He used to stick up for me when Gary and my brother picked on me as kids.”

Rigo recounted a touching story that involved Mark’s dad, Arthur Muehe, who told Jim Hardy — the artist who drew an illustration of Mark in Vietnam — about the day Mark died.

“Arthur told him that he was sleeping in Bridgeview and felt something touching his toe. He looked at the foot of the bed, where he saw Mark standing. He said Mark said to him, ‘I’m home, Dad. Don’t worry. Everything’s okay’,” Rigo said.

“Mark,” Rigo added, “will always be home in the hearts of the Muehe family.”

— Desplaines Valley News

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Steve Metsch

Steve Metsch

Steve Metsch is an award winning veteran reporter who previously worked for the Daily Southtown Newspapers, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Metsch is a writer and editor at the Southwest News Newspaper group based in suburban Chicago, and a freelance writer for a financial newsletter, a health magazine and the Naperville Sun.
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Steve Metsch

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