SPRINGFIELD, Ill. | Lee Ann Smith says she wishes the family of every fallen soldier could get the reception and support she received in Jacksonville, Ill.
One year ago, thousands of people lined the streets holding American flags and putting their hands over their hearts to honor Smith's son, Sgt. Andrew Tobin, who was killed Aug. 24, 2011, when insurgents attacked his unit in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
Tobin, who attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville in 2005 and 2006, was buried in Asbury Cemetery, located just southeast of Jacksonville, on Sept. 5.
Smith says she'll always be thankful for the support she saw that day. In fact, it was the motivation behind her decision to start a nonprofit organization, called Member of Service (MOS) Moms, to honor her son's legacy, and promote the type of patriotism she witnessed that day.
Smith discussed the organization on the one-year anniversary of her son's death.
She said the level of patriotism on display in Jacksonville doesn't happen everywhere. In other places, people would say, "Soldiers know what they're getting into," or, "Everyone has had someone they know killed," she said.
However, in Jacksonville and Springfield, where Tobin's body was transported from Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport to Jacksonville, everyone seemed to understand the sacrifices each soldier makes, she said.
"In Los Angeles or Chicago that never would have happened," said Smith, who lives in California. "Every soldier deserves that."
According to its website, the mission of MOS Moms is to "empower and unite the American people based on the reaffirmation of America's founding principles of God, liberty, equality, dignity and justice."
The first fundraiser for the organization is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 26 in Manteno, in Kankakee County, Smith said. Tobin graduated from Manteno High School in 2005.
The event will feature a motorcycle run, auction, raffle and a performance by comedian Roger Kabler, she said. More information about the event will be posted at mosmom.org when available.
Smith said MOS Moms still is in its infancy and not all the details are worked out, but one of her goals is to place pictures at airports or other public transportation hubs to honor soldiers.
She also said she wants to set up a wrestling scholarship in her son's name and promote awareness about the effects of post traumatic stress disorder.
"I really want to see people all over respect soldiers far more than what we are," she said. "These men are not only fighting for our freedoms, they're fighting for the freedom of the world."