Vernon Hills teen gets escort from police and fire departments to Marine induction
Four Vernon Hills police cars and a Countryside Fire Protection District engine accompanied Steven Hart and his family out of their neighborhood and toward the Marine recruiting center in Waukegan.
They were led to the end of the Harts' block by a color guard from American Legion Post 1247 bearing the U.S. flag and flags honoring the American Legion, the Marines and troops taken prisoner during wartime or missing in action.
About 20 relatives and neighbors, most wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, gathered outside the house to wish Hart well.
Hart, 18, a new Vernon Hills High School graduate, has wanted to be a Marine since he was 12. He said he's been training rigorously for military service for years.
"Everything I've done has led up to this point," Hart said. "I'm excited and I'm nervous."
Hart's mom, Jenn, said she was feeling proud "but very emotional" as they prepared to leave.
"I admire his commitment and his strength," she said.
After induction, Hart expected to spend Sunday night at a hotel in Chicago with other recruits before flying to San Diego for boot camp.
The police cars and fire engine took the Harts out of the neighborhood with their lights flashing and sirens blaring. The escort surprised Hart.
"This is crazy," he said, surveying the waiting vehicles and crowd.
American Legion Post 1247 adjutant Craig Warner helped arrange the send-off.
"It's such a huge moment in this kid's life," said Warner, himself a veteran of both the Marines and the U.S. Air Force. "We just want to let him know he's not alone."
Hart was given a commemorative American Legion challenge coin before climbing into the family's Jeep for the ride to Waukegan. He said he isn't worried about possibly being assigned to a combat role in the war on terror or in a different conflict.
"That's what I'm signing up for," he said.