Illinois – The death of Osama bin Laden comes at a time when Byron residents Kirk and Gretchen Catherwood continue to mourn the loss of their son Alec, a 19-year-old Marine Lance Corporal assigned as a rifleman to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was killed in combat Afghanistan last fall.
WNIJ's Mike Moen asked his mother where she was when she first heard that Osama bin Laden had died and what she felt at that moment.
"We had just gotten home from California several hours earlier from the memorial service that the 3/5 unit had at Camp Pendleton. It was for the 25 men from the three-five that were killed and it was gorgeous and painful," Gretchen Catherwood said, "and so it was pretty appropriate when we received a phone call that he (bin Laden) had been killed."
She said the death of bin Laden in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid was somewhat cathartic to the family's grieving process. "It gives us a little bit of closure and it feels kind of like justice has been done," Catherwood explained, "that the man who I feel was directly responsible for my son's death has been eliminated."
She said bin Laden's death hasn't changed her feelings about the war on terrorism. "I'm grateful every day to every American service member and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to thank hundreds of them personally on Friday at the memorial service," she said. "But the war on terrorism it needs to be done. We're in favor of it and we support it 100 per cent, now more than ever."
Asked to describe her son, Catherwood chuckled. "That's almost impossible to do," she said. "He was the light of a lot of people's eyes. Very funny, very goofy brought a couple of towns together and was just a friend to so, so, so many."
Alec wanted to be in the military from the time he was a little boy. His father was in the first Gulf War, his grandfather and two uncles were veterans, and Alec planned to be the first Marine of the group. His mother says she supported the plan 100 percent.
It sounds kind of strange for a mother to say, but he wanted it so badly and nothing I wanted more for him than what he wanted.
I think it just kind of makes me feel that Alec didn't die for nothing. He died loving, loving what he was doing and he believed in what he was doing so, so much. My concern is for the men who came home from that experience and I just pray that they get the help that they need because I think it's going to be a long road for them.
The question of how Alec would have responded to the news of bin Laden's death brings a laugh and a smile to her voice. "I think there would have probably been some shotgun fire in our back yard - that was his favorite thing to do - and there might have been some fireworks," she enthused, "and a whole lot of honking on the horn of his truck."
Gretchen Catherwood has a deep sense of gratitude for the mission that ended the life of the leader of al Qaeda. "I would so love to be able to personally thank the men who accomplished this mission as well as the men and women of every armed service and President Obama himself," she said. "That would be a dream come true for me."