Families of fallen soldiers gather in Springfield to share memories


Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen is not a group Linda Grieco ever wanted to join, but she said being around people who also lost family members in war helps her grieve.  

On Saturday, Grieco and 18 other families from Illinois who had a loved one killed in Iraq or Afghanistan gathered in Springfield. The event included a wreath-laying ceremony in the morning at the Illinois State Military Museum, as well as workshops throughout the day and an afternoon tribute to the soldiers and their families at Lincoln Land Community College.

In 2008, a suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed Grieco’s son, Kevin, while he was providing security outside of a conference, she said. 

The suicide bomber’s plan was to blow up the building that housed the conference. Instead, Grieco said he couldn’t get into the building and activated the bomb near American soldiers outside.

Her son was killed instantly, along with several other people, she said. Kevin left behind a wife, a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

Since then, Grieco, who lives in Winfield, in DuPage County, said she has tried to take her grandchildren to events like Saturday’s where they can be around children their age who also lost a father or mother in war.

 “It’s a group where they know that the other kids understand them,” she said. “It’s also good for them to know it’s OK to show those emotions.”

Bob Gillmore, senior survivor services coordinator for the Army Survivor Outreach Services Program, said the goal of Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen is to develop a support network of service providers and other families for people to lean on in times of need.

When people are around others with similar stories, he said it can make the grieving process easier. For example, he said a woman told him Saturday was one of the first times her daughter talked about her father’s passing.

 “We bring together families from across the state for events like this,” Gillmore said. “People want to feel that connection to other families, which makes them feel not as alone.”

Bill Harris of Brookfield, a suburb of Chicago, said he has formed a bond with other parents who lost a child in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Harris said his son, Joshua, 21, was killed in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was riding in went over a landmine.

He said he still misses his son dearly, but Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen is helping him move on.

 “Coming out here with Connections is helping us to move on and continue our journey through life,” Harris said. “We don’t want to forget, but we want to honor who Joshua was and to celebrate his short life.”

Jason Nevel can be reached at 788-1521.