Military Gold Star Families Light Christmas Tree

Lisa Fielding
December 02, 2019 - 2:35 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chris Hotchkin places an Army ornament on the Gold star Christmas Tree in honor of her son Gunner who died in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2010.

"I'm here to honor my son," Hotchkin said emotionally. "I like to represent him at every event I can."

She and 11 other families were on hand today at the Thompson Center for the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree.

Chris Hotchkin
Chris Hotchkin (Lisa Fielding/WBBM)

"My son enlisted a little bit older. He was 31 when he was killed," she said. "He enlisted in the Army to finish college and have the opportunity to do that. He was only on duty for a year when he and his convoy ran into insurgents and a bomb. Another soldier from Michigan was also killed."

Linda Chapa LaVia, with the Dept of Illinois Veterans Affairs, said when a soldier signs up to serve, their families sign up with them.

"The impact of their decision ripples throughout families and communities and we are here to honor those loved ones as well," LaVia said. "The men and women we are here to honor today wrote a bank check to the United States of America and they knew it could cost them their lives. We owe them a debt we can never repay."

The annual veteran Christmas tree lighting honored those who died in the line of duty and their parents
The annual veteran Christmas tree lighting honored those who died in the line of duty and their parents, who took part in the tree lighting with Gov. Pritzker. (Lisa Fielding/WBBM)

Hotchkin, from Downers Grove and whose son went to school in Hindsale, said the Gold Star organization has made a huge difference in her life, adding that it's helped her grieve, remember and honor Gunner.

"It's of course amazingly difficult, but you have great support from the military," she said. "Meeting fellow Gold Star moms and famlies has really been a nice thing for me."

Twelve Gold Star families took part in the annual tree lighting, lead by Gov. JB Pritzker.

Gold Star Ornament