Rauner honors military mothers who lost a child

SHARE Rauner honors military mothers who lost a child

Lenora Sparks (right) and her mother, Leona Sparks, attended a Gold Star Mothers luncheon Sunday at the Chicago Cultural Center. Lenora Sparks’ son, Marine Lance Cpl. John Sparks, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

In a soft voice, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Sunday thanked and honored Illinois mothers who have had a child killed while serving in the military.

“To our mothers here today, you have a hole in your heart that none of us can ever fill,” Rauner said. “I want you to know that the people of Illinois will never forget your sacrifice.”

About 100 people gathered for the Gold Star Mothers luncheon under the Tiffany stained glass dome on the third floor of the Chicago Cultural Center.

Crying mothers pulled from boxes of tissue on each table as they remembered and celebrated their children.

“While you don’t wear a uniform, you are true American heroes in my book,” Illinois National Guard Land Forces Cmdr. Michael R. Zerbonia said.

Lenora Sparks, 51, said she’ll always miss her son, Marine Lance Cpl. John Sparks, who was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 8, 2010. He was 22.

“It still hurts,” said Sparks, who attended the service with her mother, Leona, 76. Both wore white shirts with airbrushed images of the fallen Marine, who attended Robeson High School in the Englewood neighborhood where he was a running back on the school’s football team.

John and Cheryl Hunsell traveled from Woodlawn in southern Illinois to attend the luncheon. “It means a lot to us,” said Cheryl, whose son, Jonathan Kyle Price was killed in Jan. 13, 2006, while serving in Iraq. He was 19.

“He was the center of the family, and we have a big family and all the kids just loved him,” said his sister, Rachel Hunsell, 24.

“He told me that he was going to be a dad the night before he was deployed,” Rachel said through tears. “His daughter was born two months after he was killed. Her name is Madison.”

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