Denise Meehan doesn’t like being in the media spotlight.
Meehan is the mother of PFC Andrew Meari, the Plainfield South High School graduate killed in Afghanistan last November. She had to be persuaded to participate in a Memorial Day segment for the new WLS-Channel 7 morning program, “Windy City Live.”
“This isn’t about me," she said. "It’s about Drew and, by extension, all servicemen.”
"Windy City," which made its debut Thursday in the the 9 a.m. time slot that Oprah Winfrey vacated this week, chose Meari for it Memorial Day program honoring local military heroes.
The hourlong live program will feature taped segments with Meehan and several members of Meari's Army division, some of whom will be joining Meehan and Meari's Plainfield friends Monday at the downtown Chicago studio.
“This is not about a local family,” Meehan said. “It’s about a local soldier.”
Meari's death is still a tough subject for Meehan, who calls the experience "surreal." Her 22-year-old son and Spc. Jonathan Curtis, 24, of Belmont, Mass., were killed Nov. 1, 2010, by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
She agreed to be a part of the “Windy City Live” program only after producers assured her the taping would be a tribute to her son and others like him. A film crew spent five hours with her and a few of Meari's friends to get enough footage for the segment.
“It’s hard to agree to be the center of attention,” Meehan said. “There is nothing more profane than to stick a camera in the face of a grieving family.”
She forced herself to “step up and do what I needed to do” for the sake of her son's memory. Through the filming, Meehan said she stayed focused on the topics of military service, sacrifice and honor.
“While I’m not comfortable being in the media, I’m very comfortable with that [subject],” she said.
She maintains, however, her boundaries when it comes to sharing “personal family pain.”
“I have no desire to have a pity party,” she said.
“Windy City Live” producers are using some of the photos taken at Meari's funeral (including some from Plainfield Patch) and a video put together by Heidi Kelly, a sergeant with the Plainfield Emergency Management Agency.
(You can watch it on YouTube by clicking here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAMx5f_HPjs.)
“This should be a wonderful tribute to Andrew and all the soldiers, showing all the support from people here at home,” Kelly said.