High school honors fallen soldier

Village recognized for military support
November 3, 2009 (CHICAGO) Sergeant Christopher Abeyta, 23, died last March in Afghanistan. He was on his second tour of duty in the Middle East when he and other soldiers encountered an improvised explosive device. Two other soldiers from Illinois were killed in that same attack.

On Tuesday morning, Governor Pat Quinn was among those paying tribute to Abeyta at his alma mater, Bremen High School.

Abeyta was a 2003 graduate of Bremen. On Tuesday, his parents donated his uniform and some of his writings to the local historical society.

Quinn spoke fondly of Abeyta during the emotional ceremony.

"I was at Chris Abeyta's funeral. He's a special young man who's always in our hearts. He was patriotic. He had an ethics of service. For his high school, for his hometown, for all of Illinois, the family of Illinois to be gathered here to honor his life and mourn his loss, it was very meaningful and important," Quinn said.

"When he came home to us, we were just overwhelmed by the community support, giving him a hero's welcome. We know he was smiling," said Christopher's mother, Barb Abeyta.

"I teach at the school. I knew Chris from before he had graduated. It was a fitting tribute for him coming back," said Midlothian Mayor Terry Stephens. "Tough kid. He was a wrestler. A hard-nosed, good, kid."

"Chris serves as a role model for a lot of people - the way he lived his life and the way he gave his life for his country. We want to honor that," Stephens said.

Pictures from the young man's life filled a screen in Bremen's gymnasium.

Midlothian turned out in force in March when the sergeant's body returned to Chicago, hands over their hearts or in salute as the procession wound its way from Midway Airport through town.

"We owe them an eternal debt of gratitude. It's very, very important that we not forget," Quinn said.

Barb Abeyta ended the ceremony with a request.

"Please, if you leave with anything today, please support our troops and stand by them," she said. "Let them know that they're all waiting for them and how much we appreciate what they're doing for us, the sacrifice of their lives to protect us. We can never thank them enough. We can never forget them."

Also at that ceremony, Midlothian honored World War II veteran Frank Bock and his late son, Jerry. Jerry Bock was killed in action in Vietnam.

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