It is not yet mid-autumn here in our little town. The weather has, if anything, been a little warmer than the norm for this time of year, middle to upper 60’s during the day, sliding to the mid to lower 30’s at night. Still, the trees are in the process of shedding their fall attire, the summer sounds of crickets replaced with the rustling of leaves, come evening time.
Things are, despite internet access, cable television, and wi-fi “hot spots”, still pretty provincial out here in the hinterlands of Northern Illinois. For the most part it is housewives who head to the grocers during the day, while husbands make the daily commute to the nearest big city, or the megapolis three hours further down the road. Kids ride their bikes or skate boards wherever they can. The local high school is still a focal point every Friday night, during football season. Folks as often as not, are seen to wave at local police cars as they make their rounds. Conversely, the law enforcement folks know all the local “bad apples” (of all ages), if not on a first named basis, at least where they live, and what kind of mischief can be expected from same.
We take pride in having a clean little town, one where our kids are safe. Where the local fire department is well equipped, a point of community pride. The schools are clean and modern. The park district is able to provide any number of locations and opportunities to exercise your body, mind, and spirit. (Why, we even have our own observatory!) There is a new library in town, plenty of churches, and a senior center.
We are like any town here in the heartland of America. We eat, drink, work and play. We vote, go to PTA meetings, school board and city council meetings. Our kids belong to the Boy and Girl Scouts, FFA, and Junior Achievement. The adults belong to Moose, Elks, Knights of Columbus, Masons, VFW, and American Legion.
We follow the local news, on television and radio, when the big city down the road, finds us newsworthy enough. We even have a regional weekly paper covering the news of the county. And, like most everyone else, we know what is going on at the national level, and through out the world.
Though modern technology easily allows us access to the world at large, including major events shaping the world, there is a comfort zone between “the world”, and “our little town”. Sure we have crime … but not at the level and scope of what happens in “the big city”. Sure we are dealing with unemployment, but it at least appears to be some where else which has the long lines of unemployed, not here in our own little town. The local grocer may not be doing the same business he was a year or two ago, but at the same time, he is not yet closing his doors either. Life seems more insulated here in our little town.
Today a young man returned home. He graduated from the local high school just last year. Like any number of kids from small towns, he decided to broaden his horizons, and sought employment away from the home of his youth. Like any number of kids, he answered a calling to serve, in and for, something greater than himself. (Although friends and family already knew this was a dream he held since early childhood.)
So, in June of 2009, Alec Catherwood enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He went on to begin living his dream. His travels eventually, took him to Camp Pendleton, California, where he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force. From there he ultimately went to Afghanistan.
Today a young Marine returned home. Lance Cpl. Alec Catherwood will be laid to rest here in our little town this weekend.
Our little town, no longer feels as insulated from the events of the world, as it was yesterday. Our little town, as have many little towns across the country, has lost someone irreplaceable. One of our Sons has given the last full measure of devotion, in the service of his country. Rest easy Marine, your memory will live on here in our little town, for you are one of our own.