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Tag: military

New home a place ‘to heal and grow’ (Sun-Times Media/Chicago Sun-Times)

ELGIN — U.S. Army Spc. Nick Mapson of Sugar Grove lifted his 1-year-old son, Jayden, from his wife’s arms.

He held the boy close and kissed his forehead. He pointed out the three skydivers from Ohio-based Team Fastrax jumping from an airplane overhead, each with an American flag waving proudly behind, and the quartet singing a medley of patriotic tunes on the deck.

What he didn’t know was that it all was for him.

It all was part of a surprise announcement from New American Homes, the Chicago NFL Players Association Former Players Chapter and several area home builders associations: They were presenting the Sugar Grove veteran and his family with a new home, mortgage-free.

“It’s unbelievable, and I’m so thankful,” Mapson said.

That announcement came Thursday afternoon during an annual golf outing hosted by the Home Builders Association of the Greater Chicago Area and the Residential Construction Employers Council at the Highlands of Elgin golf course, 875 Sports Way.

And it was made possible, according to NFLPA President Reggie Smith, “because of a few miracles.”

“Part of that miracle happened when a few people … turned into a lot of people, and a great thing happened,” Smith said.

The house, a 1,992-square-foot LIFEhouse designed by Hawthorn Woods-based New American Homes, is under construction in the Newport Cove community on the Chain O’Lakes near Antioch, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Looking at a photo of the house Thursday with its blue siding and white picket fence, Jackie Mapson called it “the all-American home.”

When finished, it will feature award-winning universal design principles, such as low-pile carpet in alternating colors on stairs, wide doorways and hallways and an accessible bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities. Those details now will be finalized with Spc. Mapson’s physical challenges in mind, according to New American Homes President Susanne Tauke.

That design will make the home not only functional but also “beautiful” — a place “to heal and grow,” according to Rita Unzner, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago.

For the rest of the story, visit New home a place ‘to heal and grow’ (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media.

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

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.

Death of Elgin Marine ‘ultimate’ sacrifice from community (Chicago Sun-Times)

Death of Elgin Marine ‘ultimate’ sacrifice from community (Chicago Sun-Times)

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

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.

Widow of fallen Marine recalls everyday moments (Sun-Times Media)

ELGIN — Julianna Martinez is glad that her husband, U.S. Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez, had left his wedding ring with her before he left in February for his second deployment to Afghanistan.

It’s kind of slippery, she said Thursday, and he was afraid he’d mess it up or lose it or scratch it more.

She wears it on a chain around her neck now, dangling just below the locket her sister just gave her.

She always wanted a locket, she said. This one has her husband’s photo in it, as well as an engraving of his last post on her Facebook wall: “I loved you yesterday. I love you still. I always have, and I always will.”

“He was a little lovey-dovey,” she said, her face lighting up when she talks about him.

Julianna Martinez is glad now, too, that she quit her job at the Walmart near Camp Pendleton in California, where her husband was stationed. She only had worked there three months, she said, and he always was asking her to call in.

“Now I regret at the time I was mad,” she said. “Now that I think about it, I’m glad everything happened the way it did.”

Cpl. Martinez, 21, of Elgin, was killed April 5 during combat operations in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Gunnery Sgt. Lloyd Beckford, Cpl. Martinez’s platoon sergeant and Marine Corps family liaison, said Thursday that he could not discuss how the Elgin Marine had died, but “that will come out at a later time.”

Julianna Martinez was at home at Camp Pendleton with her roommate, the wife of another combat engineer in the same unit as her husband, when she learned he had been killed.

“They came to my door … and we just knew it was one of our husbands,” she said. “I broke down and, you know, couldn’t believe it. It was unreal. I was still waiting for his call.”

She last had spoken with him the Tuesday before, she said. They usually spoke about three times a week — the longest she’d gone without a phone call was about five days — and he had told her it would be a few days before he’d be able to call again.

For the rest of the story, read Widow of fallen Marine recalls everyday moments (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.