Arcola man realized dream by joining Marines
By Meg Thilmony
Tuesday December 4, 2007

ARCOLA – Those who knew Cpl. Allen Roberts remember him in many different ways: a jokester, a hard worker, a good son, good man, good Marine.

"He could drive you nuts, but he was just loveable," said his mother, Jaye Roberts of Kemp, an unincorporated village just east of Arcola.

Lately, Jaye Roberts has been able to laugh at some memories of her son, but she still cries when she talks of his death.

Cpl. Roberts, 21, died last week after a Humvee crash near Al Asad, Iraq.

His body will arrive at Willard Airport on Wednesday morning. His visitation is scheduled for 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday and his funeral is at 11 a.m. Friday. Both are at the Arcola High School gym.

Cpl. Roberts grew up in Kemp. Though he was an only child, he spent plenty of time playing with the neighbor kids. They created the "Kemp, USA Army," Jaye Roberts said, when Cpl. Roberts was about 4. He and his playmates received their salaries in candy.

Those games began Roberts' interest in a military career, and it continued as he grew.

Cpl. Roberts collected knives. So when a relative, a Marine officer, cut his wedding cake with a sword, Cpl. Roberts' eyes went big and round. He was about 8 or 9. Plus, his maternal grandfather, Allen Strader, and several other relatives served as Marines.

Cpl. Roberts enlisted Nov. 1, 2004, and traveled across the U.S. and around the world.

He served on a six-month "float" on a Marine Expeditionary Unit that took him past Hawaii and Australia.

He visited Singapore and went snowboarding at an indoor resort while on leave in the United Arab Emirates. Cpl. Roberts told his father, Ron Roberts of Champaign, that he loved the travel.

Growing up, Cpl. Roberts and best friend Dustin Boyer talked about wanting to see the ocean.

"He was on the ocean the whole time," during those missions, Boyer said. The two communicated via e-mail and instant messages when Cpl. Roberts enlisted and Boyer went to college.

Cpl. Roberts volunteered to go to Iraq, Jaye Roberts said. He left Aug. 15 and provided defensive security in Iraq.

He loved the Marines. He was getting ready to re-enlist, his mother said, and wanted to learn how to deactivate bombs.

He had one of those "get up and go" personalities. As a boy, he was always moving, usually taking steps two or three at a time.

"He was fast," Ron Roberts said.

He played wide receiver on Arcola's football team for four years and earned a Life Scout ranking in Boy Scouts. He and his father enjoyed camping and fishing, and Cpl. Roberts knew all about cars, Ron Roberts said.

But he also cared deeply about others.

In eighth grade, Cpl. Roberts offered his locker to a classmate whose own locker had been disturbed in a prank.

"He didn't like for people to be unhappy," Jaye Roberts said, and he didn't think it was OK for people to call each other names.

But he had a sense of humor about it.

"He wasn't above making fun of himself," Boyer said.

Jaye Roberts learned of her son's death when two Marines came to her Arcola workplace last week. She was called in to meet them.

"That will be engraved in my head forever, opening the door and seeing those Marines," Jaye Roberts said.

Countless friends and neighbors have offered their sympathies and condolences and fav-orite memories of Cpl. Roberts in the days since his death, and Jaye Roberts said she'll depend on her faith, friends and family members to help her get through.

"He was a pretty good guy," Jaye Roberts said. "I wouldn't have traded him."

Neither would his dad.

"He was just a heck of a kid," Ron Roberts said.

Friends and relatives on both sides of Cpl. Roberts' family are mourning his death.

"We were so proud of him," said his aunt, Paula Griffith of Champaign. "He did what he wanted to do."