EAST CHICAGO | On the exact date he would have turned 23, Pvt. Sergio E. Perez was honored with the dedication of a street sign in his name at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Butternut Street.
Perez grew up on Butternut Street and later moved to Crown Point.
The 2010 Lake Central High School graduate was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 16, 2012.
"He was a member of the Indiana National Guard 713 Engineer Company and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect others in the line of duty," said 4th District Councilwoman Christine Vasquez.
The crowd of about 80 people that Vasquez addressed on a sunny Saturday morning included Perez's parents, Sergio Perez and Veronica Orozco.
"It's been almost two years and it still is like it happened yesterday," Perez said.
The ceremony that included the releasing of balloons and the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the intersection that now bears Perez's name took an emotional turn with the heartfelt words shared by Perez's roommate in Afghanistan, Army Spc. Jeremy Voorhees, of LaPorte.
He said the two shared many missions together and put their lives in each other's hands time and time again.
Voorhees initially said he didn't want to leave the crowd with a sad story because that would not reflect the kind of person Perez was.
"He was a man of joy," he said. "He always made me laugh anytime that I was having a bad day."
Voorhees recalled how his wife was nine months pregnant with his son, Kaiden, while Voorhees and Perez were stationed in southern Afghanistan in January 2012.
"Every 10 minutes, Sergio would come into the room and he'd go, 'Is he here yet? Is he here yet?'"
Finally, the baby arrived.
"I think that was the only time that me and him ever shed a tear, but it wasn't a tear of sadness, it was a tear of joy," Voorhees said.
Kaiden, 2, attended Saturday's ceremony with his father.
Voorhees would go on to recall the day he lost his friend.
"He let me know that no matter what, I'd get home to my family," Voorhees said, before stopping to compose himself.
"And I promised him the same thing. But on that July morning, I couldn't. I tried everything."
Voorhees said although they were ambushed, they gave all they had.