Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cory Hiltz honored by community

LA VERNE - His hand trembling and his eyes slightly misty, Trevor Matthews warned, "No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom lest he be vigilant in its preservation."

Loved ones of Cory Hiltz wiped at tears streaming down their faces and nodded affirmatively.

The Fourth of July in La Verne is always a day of celebration for thousands of residents, relatives and neighbors from other Inland Valley communities. This year, sorrow accompanied the day-long event. La Verne became a grieving city this week with the news of its first citizen to die in Iraq.

Those in attendance Wednesday knew before Mayor Jon Blickenstaff announced it that Hiltz - a La Verne Lutheran High School graduate and an Army private serving in Iraq - had been killed with four others in Baghdad on June 28 when a bomb exploded.

Friends, family and strangers shared in their loss of the boy who everyone remembered as helpful, funny and compassionate.

The La Verne City Council, Friends of the Fourth Committee and citizens of all ages dedicated the day to Hiltz's memory. Thousands stepped up to hug, shake hands and offer condolences to the slain soldier's parents, Wayne and Debra Hiltz, his sister, Kayla, grandfather Frank Hiltz, and other relatives and friends attending Wednesday's events.
Hiltz was remembered at ceremonies held at the Country Fair and during the pre-parade patriotic salute in Old Town La Verne.

Matthews, 20, was Hiltz's best friend and like all Hiltz's former schoolmates and neighborhood buddies, he felt privileged to earn the designation of "friend, best friend and brother."

"Cory always stood for honor, commitment and courage," said Matthews, who also spoke at the evening's fireworks show. "He joined the Army because he wanted to be part of something important, something bigger than himself."

Hiltz took the matter of serving and protecting seriously. He had plans to follow in the footsteps of his father, a retired Pasadena Police Department deputy chief, and become a police officer, Matthews said.

Blickenstaff said the entire community laments the "death of a hero of our city and country."

"Cory didn't lose his life. He gave his life to his country. ... We hardly have words to express our sorrow," the mayor said, his eyes focused on the grieving parents, grandparents, sister and friends sitting in the front row.

Frank Hiltz, a World War II veteran whose brother died from a land mine explosion in Germany, quietly smiled as Blickenstaff announced the the family's decision to establish a Smiling Heart Scholarship to honor Cory Hiltz's best-known facial expression and his sacrifice. The scholarship fund, which will also accept donations from the general public, will enable other teenagers to attend La Verne Lutheran High School.

From the Daily Bulletin

Related Link:
Cory F. Hiltz dies 'of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked in Baghdad by insurgents using improvised explosive devices'