A Bartlett soldier who died in Afghanistan four years ago and embodied the Boy Scouts' founding principles was honored Saturday with a new flagpole memorial at Three Fires Council's Camp Big Timber in Elgin.
A crowd of about 200 people, including members of Grieco's Illinois Army National Guard unit and dozens of Boy Scouts, gathered for the unveiling of the memorial during a touching ceremony that remembered Kevin D. Grieco as a fun-loving guy with an unwavering commitment to the Boy Scouts and his country.
Grieco, an Eagle Scout, was an assistant scoutmaster and ranger crew adviser with Boy Scout Troop 575 in Winfield. The staff sergeant, who represented the fourth generation of his family to serve in the military, was killed in October 2008 -- two days after his 35th birthday -- by a suicide bomber during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He left behind his wife, Rashmi Grieco, and two young children, Joshua and Angeli.
Grieco was an energetic and lively example for his Boy Scouts, said Stan Smolucha, Scout-O-Rama coordinator and founding scoutmaster for Troop 575.
"The kids fell in love with him," he said.
Smolucha said the memorial, which consists of three flagpoles and a bronze plaque with Grieco's photograph, was the brainchild of Dudley Nosworthy, Grieco's team leader in Afghanistan and also an Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster based in Rockwall, Texas. It then snowballed into an exciting project that received donations and in-kind contributions from dozens of members of the community, Smolucha said.
"It was a labor of love," he said.
Grieco started as a Cub Scout in 1980 in Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., and continued his involvement in Kansas, Missouri and Germany, his father Ralph Grieco said. He learned to ski at a camp in Switzerland and gathered toys for Eastern European refugee children as his Eagle Scout project, he said.
"His love of scouting was a gift he wanted to pass on to his son Joshua," he said.
U.S. Army Major Lenny Williams, Grieco's company commander in Afghanistan, said his battalion contributed $1,000 to the memorial through a mustache competition. Grieco was well-known for always sporting a mustache, Williams said, so battalion members had a three-week contest to grow the worst mustache.
"It was just in good fun -- and for a good cause," he said.
The ceremony was a beautiful affair, said Kathy and Chris Pelkey, who live in Winfield across the street from Grieco's parents.
"I can't think of a better way to pay tribute to someone who served like he did," Kathy Pelkey said.
Kevin Grieco's mother, Linda Grieco, said her family will always be indebted to those who made the memorial a reality.
"It's hard to explain how much this means to us," Linda Grieco said. "This will always be here, as a lasting tribute. It just warms our heart that he will never be forgotten."