Army Pfc. Gunnar R. Hotchkin
Died June 16, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom
31, of Naperville, Ill.; assigned to the 161st Engineer Support Company, 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade, 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died June 16 in North Kunduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed in the attack was Army Spc. Joseph D. Johnson.
(The following was taken from www.dailyherald.com of June 26, 2010) When life threw challenges at Army Pfc. Gunnar Hotchkin, the man called a "natural leader" by friends and family, he didn't give up.
Instead, Hotchkin quite literally "went to war," said his best friend, Preston Bokos,
Hotchkin, 31, joined the Army last year to provide for his family after being laid off as a building contractor. And last Wednesday the former Naperville resident died in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb flipped over his tank.
On Friday morning, hundreds of mourners filled Union Church of Hinsdale to honor Hotchkin for his military service, his mischievous and charming aura, and his staunch dedication to family.
Army Lt. General Frank Helmick told mourners it is difficult to rationalize this loss.
"The only reason I can think of," he said, "is heaven needed someone special that day."
After graduating from Hinsdale Central High School in 1997, where he was an All-American swimmer, Hotchkin became a carpenter working for a homebuilder. He eventually climbed the ranks to building foreman but was laid off after the company went under, Bokos said.
To help support his wife, Erin, and three children - sons Tristan, 4, and Ethan, 7, and an adopted daughter, Taylor, 10 - Hotchkin enlisted in the Army last year.
"He did the very best he could ... and did a noble thing," Rev. Verlee A. Copeland said. "And we are proud of him for it."
Hotchkin was deployed to Afghanistan right after Christmas and remained until this May. He came home to the Army base in Fort Bragg, N.C., where he moved with his family about 10 months ago, then returned quickly to duty in Afghanistan.
On Friday, his sister-in-law Melissa Munch said fatherhood always came naturally to Hotchkin, who even took her brothers under his roof during tough times.
Citing the way he laughed with his wife and detailing the special relationship Hotchkin had with each of his children, Munch said they kept him going during deployment.
"He would live phone call to phone call, just to hear the children's voices," Munch said through tears.
Friday's funeral service also included tributes by a motorcycle patriot guard, a bagpipe troupe, and speeches by Gov. Pat Quinn, Hotchkin's brother Kurt, and Bokos.
"I know from hearing about him from all of you that I am not just idolizing my brother," Kurt Hotchkin said to the mourners. "I'll say it (to my brother) now and I'll say it forever: 'Thank you.'"