Elgin-area residents salute Cpl. Martinez as Marine’s body returns home (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

ELGIN – Just before 3 p.m. Friday, the first sirens echoed in downtown Elgin. Minutes later, the flashing lights appeared at the end of Douglas Avenue, and Arnold Bochum of Elgin jumped to his feet.

“Here it is. It’s coming. It’s here,” said Bochum, a member of the South Elgin VFW Post who served in the Army from 1953 to 1956.

It was the procession of Patriot Guard motorcyclists, of Elgin fire and police department vehicles, of SUVs carrying somber-faced Marines and family clutching tissues to their faces. It was the procession bringing Cpl. Alex Martinez home.

Cpl. Martinez, 21, was killed Thursday, April 5, during combat operations in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

An estimated 300-plus area residents lined Douglas Avenue in front of the Elgin Police Department on Friday to thank him and his family, including his 22-year-old widow, Julianna Martinez, for that sacrifice. More than 1,000 turned out for the visitation following at Laird Funeral Home in Elgin, the funeral home estimated.

“We’re a small town in the middle of the country, and it really has brought the conflicts home to us. It really makes us a part, in an unfortunate way, of the international scene,” Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said.

“We have many men and women serving in the armed forces. We try to honor them as best we can. This brings it to another level. This is the ultimate our community can do — to give one of our own.”

For the rest of the story, read Elgin-area residents salute Cpl. Martinez as Marine’s body returns home (Sun-Times Media). For more photos, view the photo gallery of the procession welcoming home Cpl. Martinez.

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.