Southern Illinois National Guard Soldier Remembered Print
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Monday, 11 April 2011 15:18

Memorial Recognizes Illinois National Guard Soldier Killed in Afghanistan; Story by Sgt. Charlie Helmholt, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

AVISTON, IL (04/11/2011)(readMedia)-- Amidst the Midwest's many country roads and corn fields, there is a very unique place that sits just outside of the southern Illinois town of Aviston. There, tucked away seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is the aptly named Hidden Lake Winery.

The winery, which opened in 2005, has played host to many ceremonies that exploit the establishments natural beauty, its elegance and charm. Recently this business sent a message to local military and civilians that they are all about red, white and blue.

April 8 and running three days through April 10, winery owner Dale Holbrook and general manager Missy Shirley decided to host a Military Appreciation Weekend and a dedication service to pay homage to Illinois' fallen warriors.

The event centered around Saturday's ceremony when a memorial to honor those veterans who have given their lives was unveiled. A tribute wall adorned with plaques, engraved with the various names and ranks of the fallen.

In the corner of the wall lies the memorials' main attraction, a life-size statue sculpted by Holbrook in the image of Clinton County's own Staff Sgt. Joshua Melton of Carlyle.

"I want this to honor Josh as both a dedicated Soldier and a man who loved his life, his family and his friends," said Holbrook.

Many people in Clinton County remember the tragic death of Melton, an Illinois Army National Guard Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Marion. Melton died after an improvised explosive device detonated in Kandahar, Afghanistan in June 2009.

"Everyone around here knew him. He would've helped anybody and he didn't have one enemy," said Richie G. Holtgrave, Melton's cousin.

Speakers at the event on April 9 included Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, State Senator Kyle McCarter, Holbrook and many family and friends of Illinois servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

"Josh Melton was a true representative of Clinton County, and of the people of Clinton County. He was a patriot, he was a volunteer," said Enyart.

Similar stories abounded throughout the day from those closest to the veterans.

One in every 25 men in the United States lost their life 150 years ago in the Civil War. Contrast that to today when only one in 1,000 men bear the brunt of the ongoing wars, said Enyart.

This is not only telling as to how brave these men and women of the armed forces are, but how much they deserve not to be forgotten.

This ceremony was about remembering those that have died serving their country. Grief and emotion were apparent as a friend or family member spoke about their Soldier who perished. However, when the speaker finished memorializing, many times they smiled and seemed much happier just to have been able to share with others a little about their hero.

There were more than 650 guests who attended April 9 and April 10 to honor the men and women in uniform.

Other guests in attendance included the Illinois Patriot Guard who brought with them their Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial Wall, Miss Illinois Teen USA Paige Higgerson, the St. Louis Rams cheerleaders, Poison cover band Posin, representatives from both the American Legion and the VFW, and musical performers Kerry Steinmann and Stephen Koritta.

Koritta wrote and performed a song during Saturday's ceremony to mark the occasion entitled "Central Standard Time."

Although Melton's life was taken, his memory will now stand in stone for countless years, and his deeds will surely serve to inspire those who hear his story.

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