ST. CHARLES – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to Summer, but it’s also when the nation pauses to honor those who died while fighting for our freedom.

WGN News Now is honoring some of our local heroes this Memorial Day holiday and among them is Illinois Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Jake Frazier of St. Charles.

Jake’s father, Jim, recently joined WGN’s Christine Flores to share memories of his son and reflect on Memorial Day.

Frazier said every day is Memorial Day for Gold Star Families. He wants people to remember what freedom in this country costs. 

“Take a moment out of your barbeque or buying a new mattress or looking at cars. Take a moment and remember all those young men and women who were so dedicated, duty, honor, and country that they gave their lives,” said Frazier.

Jake was 24 years old when he was killed in a firefight after his convoy was ambushed while returning from a security mission in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in March 2003.

He was the first Illinois Air National Guardsman killed following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Staff Sgt. Frazier was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Illinois Medal of Valor, and National Guard Association of Illinois Distinguished Service Award.

He was a Joint Terminal Attack Controller in the Illinois Air National Guard/USAF with the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron in Peoria and was working to become Special Forces qualified. It was a new step in his life that caught his father, who was in the Marines, by surprise.

“He came to me and said, ‘I’m getting ready to leave for bootcamp.’ And I said ok. Bootcamp? You joined the military? And he said ‘yeah, I joined the Illinois Air National Guard.’ And I said, well why didn’t you tell me that? He said ‘Well, I was afraid to, I was afraid you were going to make me join the Marine Corp. because you were in the Marine Corp.’ And I said, oh my God. No. I’m glad you joined the Illinois Air National Guard.”

After losing his son, Frazier left his corporate job and devoted himself to helping Gold Star Families who lost loved ones on active duty.

He said families who have suffered a loss have a hole in their heart that last forever but learn to live with it. “You learn to live with the scar tissue if you are going to be healthy for the rest of our lives. If you don’t learn to live with it, you can remain somewhat unhealthy for a long time, and that’s sad.” said Frazier. “So, I try to help them understand it’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to smile. But we never forget. It doesn’t mean we’re forgetting if we smile or laugh.”

Frazier recommends you go to a service, ceremony or visit a National Cemetery if you can this Memorial Day weekend to honor the fallen. Should you run into a family that’s lost a loved one in the service, Frazier said be ready to listen.

“Offer your condolences. ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ And say ‘by the way tell me your loved one’s name and a little something about them.’ “said Frazier. “…and then shut up.”

You can see more of Jim Frazier’s interview in the video above.