OSWEGO, Ill. Agoritsa Barczaka, a mother of three children from a Chicago suburb, pointed to photos of fallen soldiers in the Middle East war and reminded her three children that the privileges and freedom in which they were born are expensive .
“I remind them every day how happy they are,” Barczak told The Epoch Times on Memorial Day. “A lot of soldiers fought for this … everything we consider happy here.”
Agorista and her husband, Drew Barczak, took their children to the Wall of Honor dedicated to soldiers killed in action in the middle of the Middle East in Oswego City Hall, just southwest of Chicago. The wall, which is updated annually, honors approximately 7,000 soldiers who died in the Gulf War, Afghanistan War and Iraq War. This is the first time it has ever been shown outside of Oregon after it was created in 2003 by Alicia Tallman High School.
Drew, a police officer who saw his share of human tragedies, was moved to tears by a show honoring soldiers missing in the Middle East. “When you call your country, they report them, they do what is expected, and unfortunately some do not pick it up,” Drew said. “We definitely want to pass on these experiences so that children understand that freedom is just not free.”
Kim Ekker, a veteran who served in the military in the 1980s, also brought her 16-year-old son to the wall to convey her understanding of the importance of Memorial Day.
“It is important to make sure that my son knows what it is about today,” said Ekker. “The love for this country, the sacrifices these soldiers make every day, and just never forgetting that they are there, keep our freedom here.”
Ekker said that seeing photos of each soldier killed was different from getting the number of casualties out of the news. “You come here and you see the real faces, they are so young … When I see them, I think of their siblings and how their mother and father feel.”
Pat Mastenbrook, the Operations Manager of Vets Help Vets, an organization that maintains the wall and brought it to Oswego, told The Epoch Times that the wall is not just a place for civilians to show respect and learn not but also a place of healing for combat veterans who made it home.
“A lot of these veterans came looking for friends on the wall during the night,” Mastenbrook said. ‘Often corpses were taken away when they were killed, and there was no time for mourning. Their comrades have no closure for their death … You see grown men crying as they leave here. ‘
Mastenbrook’s deceased husband was a veteran of the Korean War who later developed Alzheimer’s disease. During the difficult years she cared for him, she received unconditional help from many veterans. She decided to pay their way forward by helping veterans through the organization Vets Help Vets. She told The Epoch Times that fighting veterans who have died in action deserve their respect, but those who make it home also need our support.
“They come back damaged, and rightly so,” Mastenbrook said. “The biggest thing that helps them is knowing that there are people who care.”