'Freddie' Vazquez planned to return home from Afghanistan in about a week to celebrate his 20th birthday. Instead, his body was returned home, the latest casualty of the increasingly violent fighting in the Afghanistan war.
Family and friends remembered the 2008 West Leyden High School graduate at funeral services Saturday morning.
Once a Marine always a Marine, and a Marines support their own. Dozens of fellow Marines joined family members, friends and Governor Quinn at the funeral services held in Melrose Park.
A somber group of Marines carried the casket into the church, followed by family members who were dressed in white.
"There are no words in the English language or the Spanish language or any language to relieve the pain in losing such a special, special young man," Governor Quinn said.
Relatives traveled to Melrose Park from Mexico and other parts of the United States for the funeral. They recalled how Vazquez fulfilled his lifelong dream when he joined the Marines one year ago.
Vazquez was deployed to Afghanistan in March. He was earning commendations as a rifleman in the second Marine regiment and received a number of awards as he rose up the ranks quickly.
His friends remember a fun-loving guy who made people laugh and was close to his family. They also say he tried to set a good example for them.
"He wanted to be there. He always talked about going away to war and joining the Marines. It's just sad," said friend David Dunne.
It is a difficult time for family, and the Marines who turned out to support them want them to know they are now, unfortunately, part of a larger family, but their son was a hero.
"This young man lost his life, wasn't even old enough to buy a beer," said Allen Bettcher of the Marine Motorcycle Club. "We lost a brother. So, we're here to support the family."
"We come and show support to the family and to honor our brother and sister Marines whenever we can," Marine State Chaplain Troy Walker said.
June and July 2010 have been the deadliest months in the nine years of the Afghanistan war. U.S. military commanders say all signs point to more casualties in the coming months as allied troops challenge insurgent soldiers in some of their strongholds.
Experts say the bloodshed is straining the already tepid international support for the war.