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Loved ones salute fallen Wheaton soldier
By Matt Arado | Daily Herald Staff

Linda Landreth and her son Christian, 12, of Glen Ellyn, watch the hearse carrying U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Oratowski as it leaves Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn Saturday. Oratowski was killed in Afghanistan.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Mourners gather outside Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn Saturday before the funeral for Wheaton resident Kevin Oratowski, a U.S. Marine who was killed in Afghanistan.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Lance Cpl. Kevin E. Oratowski

 

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Published: 8/29/2010 12:04 AM | Updated: 8/30/2010 11:01 AM

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Stephen Oratowski said his son Kevin went by many nicknames during his life, including a few that "I probably shouldn't repeat inside church."

From now on, though, Oratowski will think of his son in just one way.

"For the rest of my life, the rest of my family's life, I'll know him as Lance Cpl. Kevin Oratowski of the U.S. Marines - war hero," he said through tears.

Kevin Oratowski, 23, was killed Aug. 18 by a roadside bomb while in combat in Afghanistan. He was a Wheaton resident and a 2005 graduate of Glenbard South High School.

Family and friends said goodbye to Oratowski Saturday during a funeral mass at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. Oratowski was later buried in Chapel Hill Gardens West Cemetery in Oakbrook Terrace.

Those who spoke of Oratowski Saturday described him as a sweet, funny young man who never failed to make others laugh. His younger brother, Michael, talked about the good-natured fights they'd get into while sleeping in bunk beds as children.

Michael also mentioned his brother's video game prowess, saying that from the old Nintendo 64 gaming system to the current Xbox, he was never able to beat Kevin.

"I guess the older brother always gets the video game gene," he said.

Stephen Oratowski added that Kevin also was fiercely determined and aggressive. Those who attended the funeral laughed when Stephen said his son, a lifelong basketball fan, was the only player in his elementary school basketball league ever to be called for a flagrant foul.

That determination is what drew Kevin to the Marines, and what him such a good soldier, Stephen said. Kevin Oratowski enlisted in 2008, and he was deployed to Afghanistan this past March.

When Kevin graduated from boot camp, Stephen said it was startling to see how much his formerly skinny and shy boy had changed.

"He'd grown up," Stephen said, again overcome by emotion.

Kevin Oratowski was a light-armored vehicle crewman. The fatal blast from the roadside bomb occurred while Oratowski was conducting "mounted combat operations" in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, military officials said.

Oratowski's casket was draped in the American flag before being taken from the church at the end of Saturday's service. A bagpipe crew played outside, and flag-carrying members of the Warriors Watch Riders stood at attention.

In addition to Michael, his brother, and Stephen, his father, Oratowski is survived by his mother Mary and his sister Carrie, as well as Carrie's fiance, Jason Placzek. He was preceded in death by his twin sister, Avy.

Oratowski was one of two suburban natives killed in Afghanistan during the same week. U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Boyd, a native of Palatine, was killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 19 while on foot patrol. A memorial service for Boyd was held Saturday in Arlington Heights.