As chairman of the Veterans’ Memorial Committee in Arlington Heights, Greg Padovani works tirelessly to advocate for local veterans — and their sacrifices made for the country.

The Eternal Flame stands at Memorial Park with the inscription: Because of our Heroes and their Families, Freedom Survives.

He’s been leading the committee for 13 years — including organizing the Memorial Day Parade and ceremony — and it would seem that he has seen it all. But every now and again, something happens that validates the committee’s work.

“Seems like once a year someone comes out of nowhere with information about their loved one,” Padovani says. “It stems from a feeling that no one remembers them.”

That’s where Karen White of Gurnee comes in. She contacted Padavoni Thursday, with information about her brother, Army Pvt. Scott Jacobson, who died Feb. 27, 1972 in Vietnam. He lived in Arlington Heights at the time he enlisted and had attended Arlington High School, graduating in 1969.

“He was one of our ‘unknowns,’ ” Padovani says. “All we had was his name, rank and date of death. We have 59 fallen heroes who are from Arlington Heights, and we have the stories for about half of them. We’re always trying to learn more.”

Karen White was 14 when her older brother, Scott, was killed. She remembers the officers coming to their door and how the world changed that day, forever.

The Jacobson family had moved to Arlington Heights from Morton Grove, in 1968, when Scott was a junior in high school. While he had played basketball and hockey at Niles West High School before they moved, he spent his upperclassmen years going to school and working at his father’s gas station in Glenview.

Yet, he transitioned into his new school easily, his sister says.

“Scott was charismatic and good looking,” White said. “He made friends easily and was very popular.”

One of his friends was John White, who enlisted in the Army with Scott and whom she would later marry. To this day, Scott’s family knows little about how he died in Vietnam.

Jacobson’s name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington.

“He was a mechanic in the motor pool, so he wasn’t in a danger zone,” White says. “Of course, you’re always in danger when you’re in a war zone.”

Still, his death at the age of 20, came as a shock and his parents never really recovered. There was an overwhelming turnout to his services, with cars pouring into the parking lot at St. Peter Lutheran Church and later filling the lot at Memory Gardens, where Scott was interred.

But that’s pretty much where his memory ended, White says. Which is why when she heard of what the Arlington Heights community does to remember its fallen heroes — reading their names aloud at the ceremony, and placing standing wreaths and engraved bricks with their names of each veteran around a sculpture of the eternal flame — it drew tears to her eyes.

His name also is inscribed on a memorial brick around the Eternal Flame in Arlington Heights.

“We haven’t had any of this. It’s as if he was forgotten,” White says. “To know that he is remembered, feels wonderful. Our family is so pleased.”


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