FOREST PARK – It’s a holiday where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and recognize their families who carry on their legacy.

Jean Harris of Forest Park is one of those individuals who will be thinking of a loved one that she lost on this Memorial Day 2022: Her stepson, Josh Harris. 

The Illinois Army National Guard Sergeant, who was part of the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery in Robbins, Illinois, was killed in September of 2008  in Gerdia Seria, Afghanistan. He was traveling in a vehicle there when it ran into an explosive device.

Described as a fun-loving person who loved music, building forts, and would always make sure everyone was happy, Josh is constantly in her thoughts, but especially on May 30 of this year.

Harris spoke to WGN News Now ahead of Memorial Day, describing the occasion as sad yet reflective, as the family remembers the happy times with their son who gave his life in service to the country.

 “As a little boy, he marched with his drum and bugle boy scout troop in various parades, but especially with the River Forest Parade where his troop was from, and so many a Memorial Day we were watching him march in a parade,” said Harris. “Now it’s reversed, where the parades are for him and the other fallen soldiers that were killed in all the wars.”

Harris helps other Gold Star Families as a support coordinator for the Survivor Outreach Services of Northern Illinois while also working at North Riverside Armory and said it’s a way for her to honor her son year-round. She takes pride and comfort in giving back and supporting other families through their trials, tribulations, and grief.

Harris said Josh also had that caregiving spirit and would play at some of the funerals for the fallen when he was in service. The significance of that impact, she believes, led a group of Vietnam Veterans to push to rename VFW Post 2868 in Brookfield in his honor.

As Harris reflects on Josh’s life both inside and outside of the military, she hopes others will do the same in honor of those lost during service. 

“Respect the flag first and foremost. There are many people who have sacrificed for that flag. ” she said. “And remember the families. If you come across someone who you know has lost someone and you don’t know anything about their loved one, just ask them because we love to talk about them. My husband had a saying. We only have our yesterdays; we don’t have our tomorrows anymore. So, we love to talk about them.”

Harris and another Gold Star Mother are hosting the first annual “Honor the Sacrifice” golf outing on June 2 at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton. It’s an event to benefit Gold Star Gardens and will help fight food insecurity within local communities.

You can watch more of her emotional interview in the video above.