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‘Of course, he had no knowledge he was going to die’

Shorewood Navy veteran tends the grave of a friend’s son who died in Vietnam. That’s what Memorial Day is.

Whenever Don Kochevar goes out to Woodlawn Cemetery in Joliet, he always stops at the grave of Stanley Trygg Jr., a Vietnam veteran.

“More often than not, I put a flag there,” Kochevar, of Shorewood, said. “And then people take it.”

Kochevar, 83, served in the Navy from 1956 to 1962 but didn’t serve with Trygg because Trygg served in 1970, Kochevar said. So that’s not why Kochevar tends Trygg’s grave.

It’s because Kochevar, a civil engineer who worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said he got to know Trygg’s father, Stanley Trygg Sr., whenever the former Crown-Trygg Corporation “did some work for us.”

“With Crown-Trygg paving, I knew I was going to get a top-notch job,” Kochevar said. “They were one of the top asphalt contractors around.”

Sometimes Stanley Sr. brought his son to the job site with him, Kochevar said.

“He was quite a bit younger at the time when I saw him,” Kochevar said. “When he came on the job with his dad, he was riding a bicycle. And he would just ride that thing around, and he was just observing stuff. He was young, probably early high school.”

Kochevar studied civil engineering in college and later worked on Interstate 80 until it was opened to traffic, he said.

“I worked on Black Road from six corners all the way out to the gravel road at that time, which is called Larkin Avenue,” Kochevar said. “I worked on Jefferson Street all the way out to the airport. I’ve been around here a long time.”

Young Trygg started his tour on Aug. 28, 1970, and was killed in action on Nov. 14, 1970, Kochevar said.

Trygg was 23 years old.

“All of a sudden, he was gone,” Kochevar said. “The father, Stanley Sr. – he was never the same. He was going to have his son take over the business eventually, and it just didn’t happen.”

About 15 years ago, Kochevar traveled to Washington D.C. with his son and grandson. Kochevar visited several landmarks: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial and the Vietnam Wall.

And there was Trygg.

On the wall: panel W-6, line 61.

Someone Kochevar knew personally as a boy was on that wall.

“I could hardly contain myself – going to that panel and seeing it,” Kochevar said. “It’s hard for me even today. My emotions come out in my eyes.”

It made Kochevar wonder – just how many people from Joliet are actually on that wall?

A 2007 Herald-News story said 19 Joliet residents were represented on the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Ten years ago, Kochevar stumbled across a poem he believes Trygg wrote. Kochevar was attending a funeral near Trygg’s grave and stumbled upon it.

“Right in the back of the place where he’s buried is this poem, etched in granite stone,” Kochevar said. “I thought that was one heck of a poem written just before the guy died. Of course, he had no knowledge he was going to die. He was only boots on the ground in Vietnam a few months. He didn’t get into combat very long. He didn’t last very long over there.”

Kochevar feels everyone should read that poem. Here is the poem:

“Love is a happening of the mind that enriches the soul.

“Love taunts, fulfills, enriches and pains the body and mind.

“Love is the most creative emotion God has given to His children.

“Love is the basic ingredient in peace.

“Love is all I want, all I need, and all I wish to bestow upon my fellow man.”