Updated: January 28, 2013 1:59AM
ANTIOCH — Nearly four years after he went directly from Antioch High School into the Marine Corps and nine months since he left for a tour in Afghanistan, Cpl. Craig “C.J.” Kanya Jr. returned home Tuesday night, traveling up the Tri-State Tollway with a little help from the Illinois Patriot Guard and Warrior Watch Riders.
“It was unbelievable. I’ve got a lot of e-mail thank-yous to send out,” said his father, Craig Kanya Sr., the day after an estimated 20 volunteers on motorcycles joined officers from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Antioch Police Department in providing a homecoming escort.
According to his father, Craig Kanya Jr. graduated from Antioch High in December 2008 and joined the Marines the next month. His tours of duty included service on the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, and he was honored in September 2011 by the Round Lake Area Exchange Club Hometown Hero Committee, which sent him a care package during his stint at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Kanya Jr. deployed to Afghanistan in February, returning stateside in October. Tuesday’s gathering was the first time the Kanya family has seen him since he went overseas.
“We all went down to the Lake Forest Oasis and the riders did a flag line for him there,” said Kanya Sr., who was joined by family members that included wife Michele and sons Brett and Hunter. “Then they drove us up the Tri-State and came over to Antioch and then to the (Antioch) Golf Club, where the Marine Corps (League) did another flag procession for him. It was just overwhelming.”
The returning Marine’s stay in his hometown is scheduled to be brief — Craig Kanya Sr. said his son plans to depart this week for Augustana College in Rock Island to start the collegiate phase of his life.
Early next year, the family’s history of service will continue when 18-year-old Hunter Kanya, who graduates from Antioch High next month, plans to join the Marines.