Palos Hills will be applauding U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Andrew J. Jender, one of its own, during a welcome home ceremony led by the Soldiers Guardian Angels and the Warrior Watch Riders.
The event, which will kick off with a parade at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, starting at Palos Lanes, 11025 Southwest Highway and ending at City Hall, 10335 S. Roberts Road. The Angels is a local organization of volunteers, which supports and welcomes home men and women who have been serving in the military.
"We will be a part of the welcome home ceremony," said Ald. Marty Kleefisch, who served as acting mayor during a recent City Council meeting, when he announced details of the event.
Mayor Jerry Bennett will award Jender a certificate of appreciation for protecting the country during a ceremony with a flag line at City Hall beginning at 7 p.m.
Jender, who is 22, graduated from Stagg High School in Palos Hills in 2008. But even before graduation, Jender knew he wanted to be a Marine, according to Jerry Jender, Andrew's father. Andrew Jender is currently staying with his dad, mother Patricia, brother Mike and sister Rachel in Palos Hills, where they have lived for about 20 years.
Andrew Jender has been a Marine for 4.5 years, serving 2.5 of them under President Barack Obama's security team and the rest training and then serving as an infantryman in Afghanistan under the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. He will return to Camp Pendleton for six more months at the end of October, when his contract with the Marines ends.
Service could be mighty challenging at times, especially because of the distance from family and friends. But having comrades he could turn to and knowing it was his duty to help protect them was a big help, Jender said.
"There's really no better way to build trust with people you work with than to be overseas and have their back," said Jender. "The most rewarding feeling anyone can have is just knowing you're doing everything you can to have everybody you know go back to family and friends," said Jender.
Jender already had one welcome home ceremony when he got off the plane at Midway airport and was greeted by a terminal of clapping relatives, friends and even passers-by who joined in, said his father.
"I think it's an honor to have a son like him," said Jerry Jender.