Town remembers fallen hero

ARCOLA – Cpl. Allen Roberts' minister called him a hero who defended little children and was dedicated to justice.

His best friend described him as a kind person who always wanted to help people.

His girlfriend called him a guy who "could always turn my frown into a smile."

They were among hundreds who turned out at the Arcola High School gym Friday morning for his funeral.

Cpl. Roberts, a native of Kemp and an Arcola High School graduate, died last week after a vehicle crash near Al Asad, Iraq.

Cpl. Roberts was buried with full military honors at the Arcola Cemetery.

As his casket, draped with the American flag, was driven from the high school to the cemetery, hundreds more area residents, many waving flags, saluted him one final time.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said every city in Illinois mourns Cpl. Roberts, whom he called "a true Marine and a great American."

"Allen understood that the mission of protecting our country is a sacred duty," Quinn said. "There are no words in the English language to ease the pain of losing such a special young man. It is the duty of us living to make sure that those who have fallen to defend democracy have not died in vain."

The Rev. Barney Wells, Cpl. Roberts' pastor, recalled how he used to play Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with other kids when he was a child.

"He constantly played at being a hero," Wells said. "Usually it involved punching, kicking or swords.

"As he grew up, Allen would always stick up for the little kids who were getting picked on."

As a Marine, Wells said,Cpl. Roberts became the hero he always aspired to be.

Cpl. Roberts best friend, Dustin Boyer, said he an Allen were inseparable as children.

Boyer remembered going trick-or-treating with Cpl. Roberts. One woman, a Solo cup employee, didn't have any candy, but she gave them some sleeves of Solo cups.

"Allen was so proud of those cups," he recalled. "Anybody who knew Allen knew he was excited about whatever he did. Allen didn't have a lot of playing time on the football team, but he was the most excited and pumped up person within 10 miles of every Purple Riders game."

Boyer said Cpl. Roberts was a kind person who constantly tried to help others.

"We all know Allen is in a better place," he said.

Many fought back tears as Cpl. Roberts' girlfriend, Katrina "Kat" Chavez of Yuma, Ariz., told how he made a difference in her life.

"He truly understood me better than anyone," Chavez said. "He made me feel I was the most important thing in his life."

Bryson Mills remembered taking part in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts with Cpl. Roberts.

"I remember planting flags down Main Street with him on Memorial Day, and now that memory has additional meaning for me," Mills said. "He was a Scout who did his duty to God and his country."

Two Marines who served with Cpl. Roberts described him as dedicated and faithful.

"We lost a fellow Marine brother, and the least we can do is bury him with honor," said Sgt. Maj. Derrick Christovale.

"He was a loving, caring, sharing individual," said Cpt. Grant Keeney. "He made me proud to be a Marine."

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