Sugar Grove veteran reflects on hometown

By on August 17, 2012

During deployments, Sgt. Herron missed ‘comfortable stuff like the Corn Boil’
by Cheryl Borrowdale
SUGAR GROVE—Sgt. Sean Herron spent many stressful nights on reconnaissance missions in Iraq reminiscing about home and hometown festivals with his fellow soldiers, so it was a particularly special moment for him when he started off the fireworks at this year’s Sugar Grove Corn Boil.

“As stressful as it was over there, and it was stressful a lot, we’d distract ourselves from it by talking about things from back home, our hometowns and the festivals we were missing, and how when we came home we’d go back to comfortable stuff like the Corn Boil,” Herron said. “It was pretty neat to be able to start off a fireworks display.”

It was a first for the Corn Boil organizers, as well, which designed a special plunger that Herron pushed down to start off the fireworks display. The Sugar Grove Lions Club, the Veterans Park Foundation and the American Legion jointly presented Herron with a certificate of appreciation for his service, something that Lions Club President Kevin Geary said he hopes is the beginning of a tradition in Sugar Grove.

Geary helped select Herron, a veteran who spent 10 years in the Army and was deployed three times, once in Kosovo and twice in Iraq, for the honor.

“I’ll never forget it,” Geary said. “I looked over, and he’s pushing down the plunger and has got an ear-to-ear grin. It’s priceless. One of the things that touched me, almost made me cry, was that he sent me a text a day or two later. He said that when he was on the front lines and bullets were whizzing past his head, he was trying to sleep and would think of nice things at home. What a nice thing for him to be able to be part of our festival and do that.”

Though Herron is originally from the small town of Beulah, Mich., he settled in Sugar Grove in 2008, soon after marrying his wife, who is from Big Rock. He’s become an active member of the community, joining the Sugar Grove American Legion; volunteering as an after-school reading tutor with Triple Threat, a mentoring program for youth in East Aurora; volunteering with an equine therapy program in Sandwich that does therapeutic riding lessons for children; and working to get out the vote in his subdivision, Settlers Ridge.

Cliff Barker, the chaplain for Sugar Grove’s Sons of the American Legion, said that Herron deserved to be recognized because he was a great example of a veteran who came home and started a new life for himself.

“Three deployments overseas, that’s pretty major. I give him a lot of credit,” Barker said. “I talk to a lot of recently returned vets, but a lot of the guys who have come back are just trying to reintegrate themselves into society. Sean’s a great role model for that. He’s got his life together, he’s married, he’s a family man, he’s settling down in a small town, he’s moving forward. I don’t want to get too dramatic here, but a lot of these young guys and girls I’ve talked to, these young returning veterans, they’re just not sure what happens when they come back. About eight months ago, they had the retraction of forces in Afghanistan. Those soldiers have been living shoulder to shoulder with other guys for a year or more, and they come home and everyone scatters. They lose that camaraderie. They need to have someone out there who they can look to, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it’s great to have guys out there like Sean that they can lean on.”

Herron returned from Iraq in 2006 after 10 years in the service. During his first deployment in Iraq, he did reconnaissance missions, heading out in a team of two to six soldiers and setting up an observation post.

“My first time there, it was a lot more dangerous,” Herron said. “We lost a couple of people.”

He spent his second deployment in Iraq doing logistics work, which kept him on the base more often. After he was discharged, he initially moved to Lisle, Ill., with some friends, and it was there that he met his wife, Sarah, an occupational therapist. The couple moved to Sugar Grove, and Herron began working on a degree in elementary education, which he finished last week.

Though he’s currently working as a sales representative for MarketStar, selling LG smartphones, he hopes to get a job teaching elementary school at Kaneland or in another local district once the Illinois State Board of Education finishes processing his transcripts and issues his teaching certificate.

“The job market’s pretty tough for teachers right now, so I’m just waiting on everything coming together,” Herron said.

Barker said that he was most impressed with Herron’s humble, down-to-earth personality.

“He’s kind of mild and unassuming when you meet him, but he’s very personable and genuine,” he said. “He’s a real stand-up guy, a nice guy. I talk to a lot of vets, but he really seems to have his act together.”

Geary would like to see starting off the Corn Boil fireworks become a tradition, though the details of what will happen in the future haven’t been finalized yet. It may become an honor bestowed upon a deserving citizen, as it was this year, or it may be raffled off to raise money for local nonprofit organizations. But no matter what happens in the future, this year was a great success.

“It came off 10 times better than we thought it would,” Geary said. “Seeing Sean after setting off the fireworks, hanging onto his wife in an armlock, it’s hard to put into words. There’s just a sense of appreciation there, that he appreciates this country, appreciates that he’s home, appreciates being in this country. He’s just a great guy. He deserves to be recognized by the community he lives in.”