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Family, friends honor soldier

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  • Bartlett High School football players enter St. Hubert Catholic Church as Patriot Guard Riders roll up their American flags after they were lined up at the entrance to the church for the mass of Matthew Martinek, a Bartlett High School graduate, on Saturday, Sept. 26. U.S. Army Pfc. Martinek died of injuries while serving in Afghanistan.

       Bartlett High School football players enter St. Hubert Catholic Church as Patriot Guard Riders roll up their American flags after they were lined up at the entrance to the church for the mass of Matthew Martinek, a Bartlett High School graduate, on Saturday, Sept. 26. U.S. Army Pfc. Martinek died of injuries while serving in Afghanistan.
    GEORGE LECLAIRE | Staff Photographer September 2009

 

Editor's note: We are republishing our story from Sept. 27, 2009, on the funeral for Matthew Martinek of Bartlett on Sept. 11, 2009, from injuries suffered in Afghanistan in light of the recent controversy over how he died.

By Matt Arado

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marado@dailyherald.com

Pfc. Matthew Martinek received a hero's farewell Saturday as family and friends gathered to honor the life of the latest suburban soldier to die because of injuries suffered in battle.

Martinek, a 20-year-old Bartlett High School graduate, died Sept. 11, a week after the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Shortly after the bomb detonated, the vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Martinek, an Army soldier, had been in Afghanistan since February.

Family members remembered him as a kind and fun-loving young man who was fiercely devoted to his family and to his country.

Travis Wright, Martinek's 26-year-old brother, said he had a difficult time coming up with words to say that would do Martinek justice.

"Words can't depict his smile, the size of his heart or how amazing he made all of us feel," Wright said during the funeral Mass at St. Hubert Catholic Church in Hoffman Estates.

The Rev. John Guiney, who presided over the funeral Mass, pointed out Martinek was born Dec. 7, the date Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, and died Sept. 11, the date terrorists attacked the U.S. in 2001.

"Clearly, he was meant to be a soldier, to be a defender," Guiney said.

Martinek's 23-year-old brother Frank said the best way to honor soldiers like Martinek is to fly an American flag outside your house.

"Get a light on it at night, because while you're asleep, people are still fighting (for America)," he said. Like their brother, Frank Martinek and Wright have served in the military overseas.

Martinek grew up in Bartlett, though he and his family moved to DeKalb shortly before he enlisted.

He was a member of the Bartlett High School football team, and current players attended the funeral in a show of respect and support.

After the funeral, Martinek's family was presented with a number of medals in his name, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

• Daily Herald staff writer Diana Wallace contributed to this report.

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