Family, friends, community say goodbye to Elgin Marine (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

Life Changers International Church in Hoffman Estates is the church Julianna Martinez, now 22, has attended since she was 12 or 13 years old, according to Pastor Gregory Dickow.

It is the church to which she “dragged” her husband, Cpl. Alex Martinez, and the church he “learned to love,” Julianna Martinez has said. It is the church that prayed with Cpl. Martinez before each of his two deployments to Afghanistan.

And on Saturday, it was the church that celebrated the life and mourned the death of the Elgin Marine, killed April 5 during combat operations in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

More than 400 family, friends, fellow servicemen and servicewomen from across the area — along with government officials including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn — attended the funeral service for the 21-year-old at Life Changers, 2500 Beverly Road.

About that many had welcomed home Cpl. Martinez the day before as the hearse carrying his body was escorted through downtown Elgin by members of the city’s police and fire departments and the Patriot Guard. And more than 1,000 stopped to pay their respects at the wake that followed 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 Friday.

“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.”

The governor, who has said he attends as many military funerals in Illinois as his schedule allows, encouraged Elgin-area residents Saturday to continue giving, to help others to honor the legacy of Cpl. Martinez.

“He was a person who understood helping others is our purpose in life,” Quinn said.

For the rest of the story, read Family, friends, community say goodbye to Elgin Marine (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Jeff Cagle for Sun-Times Media.