Wood River, Ill. - Three high school friends joined the military and all were killed in battle within six months of each other. Mary Roberts, a sister of one of the Marines, worked hard to make sure they are never forgotten. She and her two friends watched Friday as IDOT crews installed signs along highway 143 in Wood River.
“I just wanted to do something special for him," said Mary Roberts.
The signs pay tribute to her brother Chris Totora, and his high school friends Richard Bennett and Jim Stassi. In 1967, all three volunteered and joined the Marines to fight in Vietnam. All three were killed within six months of each other. Mary says her brother was not only special to her but to so many others.
“It’s really strange even after all this time people talk about him. People who went to school with him have kids named after him," said Mary.
The three young men were each 19 years old when they died. With the help of State Senator Bill Haine and State Representative Dan Beiser the Illinois Legislature agreed to honor the fallen troops.
Mary remembers when the bill passed, “I was ecstatic because I wanted something for this 50th. That was the whole thing, 50 years I wanted something special to honor him.”
Illinois Patriot Guard members began the process of placing 1000 American flags along the road.
Frederic Smith is a member of the guard, “This is my America and I’m so taken by our freedom that we have for our county and to honor these three that gave their all this is the least I can do.”
It turned out two of the IDOT workers who installed the signs are Vietnam Veterans. They were helping to honor three men who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
At 10am Saturday morning there will be a parade along Highway 143. At 11am, a ceremony will take place at the V.F.W. Hall in Wood River.