Griggsville pays tribute to fallen heroes of Illinois

A traveling tribute to Illinois' fallen heroes rolled into Griggsville Wednesday.

Hundreds of residents and school children lined the streets in the early morning to welcome the memorial escorted by the Illinois Patriot Guard.

The wall, displaying the faces of 275 fallen men and women, will officially open to the public on Friday at the start of the Griggsville Apple Festival.

"We developed this wall back in 2010 with several Gold Star fathers," Donald Pannier said.

Families who've lost a loved one fighting for our freedom become a part of the Gold Star Family. Patriot Guard Rider Donald Pannier is a Gold Star father who helped create this traveling memorial for the fallen heroes of Illinois.

"I lost my son in January of 2008 from an ambush over in Iraq," Pannier said.

Pannier's son, Specialist Phillip Pannier, is a face on the memorial.

"Some of them come to the wall who have a loved one on the wall or a friend. It's somewhat emotional, don't get me wrong. I'm very glad to see the patriotism involved. I'm very honored.," Pannier said.

Among Wednesday's crowd was Korean War Veteran Thomas McCarter. This memorial hits close to home for the marine.

"It brings back quite a few memories from the past there," McCarter said.

McCarter was one of the lucky ones, but didn't end his tour unharmed. Just 11 days before he returned home, he lost his right arm during a raid.

"I lost several friends over there in Korea and it means a lot to me that they'd bring this to Griggsville," McCarter said.

With each visit to an Illinois community, the traveling memorial grows.

"There's a lot of stuffed teddy bears and different artifacts from different families, friends and community support involved with the traveling wall," Pannier said.

"I can't say enough thank you's, very honorable," Pannier said.

The wall of fallen heroes bears the names of soldiers killed after Sept. 11, 2001. Pannier says the wall includes soldiers who died in action or later died from their injuries.