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Death of Elgin Marine ‘ultimate’ sacrifice from community

A funeral processi honoring fallen marine USMC Cpl. Alex Martinez Elgheads down Douglas Avenue ElgFriday. 
April 13 2012 | Michael

A funeral procession, honoring the fallen marine USMC Cpl. Alex Martinez of Elgin, heads down Douglas Avenue in Elgin on Friday. April 13, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 15, 2012 8:10AM

Sirens echoed in downtown Elgin. Flashing lights appeared at the end of Douglas Avenue.

A procession of Patriot Guard motorcyclists, Elgin fire and police department vehicles, and SUVs carrying somber-faced Marines and family rolled into view.

People streamed out of buildings. Police officers saluted.

It was the procession bringing Cpl. Alex Martinez home.

Martinez, 21, was killed April 5 during combat operations in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

An estimated 300-plus Elgin area residents lined Douglas Avenue on Friday to thank him and his family, including his 22-year-old widow, Julianna Martinez, for that sacrifice.

“We’re a small town in the middle of the country, and it really has brought the conflicts home to us,” 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.”

The hearse passed under the crossed ladders of two fire engines.

Onlookers held yellow balloons and American and Marine Corps flags of all sizes. They held neon-colored posterboard signs that said “Thank you! Cpl. Alex Martinez,” and red-white-and-blue, cross-shaped signs that said “God bless America.”

Daniella Mejia, 15, of Elgin draped a large American flag over the ramp at the police station. She burst into tears as she talked about her cousin Julianna Martinez.

“When we were little, she took care of us, so we want to be here to take care of her,” Daniella said.

Larkin High School student Austin Rakow, 16, said he was a freshman when Cpl. Martinez was a senior, part of the class of 2009. The school held a moment of silence Thursday, Austin said, but none of his friends really had talked about losing the Marine.

“Not really something you gossip about,” he said.

His mom Kelly Rakow, along with Elizabeth Oine and Mary Anne Briguglio, all of Elgin, had picked up their kids early from school to come downtown. They wore royal blue Larkin H.S. sweatshirts and Cub Scout uniforms and waved American flags.

“It feels like something they should see — what they do for us,” Oine said.

Julianna Martinez spoke publicly about her husband’s death for the first time.

“I am proud,” she said.

She knew her husband had wanted to join the Marines; they had married just three days after he turned 18 in December 2008, after he had graduated early from Larkin, knowing his service would separate them, she said.

“I just didn’t know what came with being in the military life and everything,” she said Thursday. “You learn everything that goes along with it as you go.”

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Life Changers, 2500 Beverly Road, Hoffman Estates.

The city of Elgin also hopes to honor Cpl. Martinez at a future city council meeting, whenever his family feels it is “the right time,” Kaptain said.

“It defines us as a community,” he said.

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