Families, friends gather as fallen soldiers’ names added to Kane memorial
By Steve Lord email@example.com May 28, 2012 5:58PM
West Aurora band members Cassie Walters, left, and Savannah Weuste are overcome near a memorial plaque honoring West High alumnus Christopher Patterson Monday during a Memorial Day Ceremony at Kane County Veterans Memorial. Patterson , of North Aurora, was killed in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
Updated: May 29, 2012 9:37AM
GENEVA — Just like any good story, the most dramatic parts came at the end.
That’s how it was Monday at Kane County’s Memorial Day ceremony, which was dedicated to the memory of Army Specialist Christopher Patterson, of North Aurora, and Cpl. Alex Martinez, of Elgin.
Both men died within the last year in Afghanistan, and their names became the latest added to the Operation Enduring Freedom section of the Kane County Veterans Memorial.
At the end of Monday’s ceremony, friends and family of both men gathered around the plaque, touching the raised bronze names, hugging each other and taking photos.
Members of the West Aurora High School band stood in line to hug Bob and Mary Patterson, Christopher’s parents. Many of them were music students with him. Two band members stood holding each other in front of Patterson’s name, praying for their former classmate.
Martinez’ family huddled around his name, taking photos and hugging. Included was his high school sweetheart, Juliana, whom Alex married before he graduated from Elgin Larkin High School and joined the Marines.
Ty Simmons, a retired Army chief warrant officer who lives in Aurora and was Monday’s guest speaker, pointed out that less than 1 percent of citizens serve in the military today.
“Christopher Patterson and Alex Martinez represent that 1 percent,” he said. “They delivered on the promise of John, Chapter 13, Verse 15, which says ‘No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.’ Where do you find such incredible young men?”
Simmons, a Vietnam War veteran who returned to active duty to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom, pointed out that Memorial Day is a day to think about veterans of all American wars, from the Revolution to Afghanistan. On this Memorial Day, America commemorated the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War, while still being engaged in active warfare for the 11th straight year.
“Today’s citizens embrace returning veterans, and offer a belated embrace of Vietnam veterans,” he said. “Wars are the result of the politics of nations, not the service of soldiers. Soldiers are just doing their jobs.”
Patterson had been studying music when he took a leave of absence from Valparaiso University in Indiana to rejoin the Indiana National Guard, and do what he considered his job.
Martinez, whom Simmons described as “a shy young man with a purpose beyond his years,” graduated high school early to join the Marines and do his job.
Simmons said generations to come will visit the Kane County memorial and remember their contribution.
“I salute those who have served our nation in the past, and those who serve today,” Simmons said.