Sgt. Anthony Maddox lost his life in 2013 after sustaining burns on most of his body in a petroleum incident in Afghanistan.
He was memorialized last year when the Illinois Legislature approved the dedication of a section of I-55 in his honor. Next year, Anthony’s memory will live on through the second ever Habitat for Humanity of McLean County Heroes of Habitat home.
Starting last year, one of the local Habitat for Humanity season builds are dedicated in the name of a local hero.
“He would definitely be proud of that, but he would think it’s too much,” Anthony’s father Jerome Maddox said.
Sgt. Maddox attended Chiddix Junior High School and Normal Community High School before transferring to a Texas high school to play football. His parents, Jerome and Frances Maddox, are longtime Bloomington-Normal residents.
“We are just thankful for this community. It's a great community to raise a family, to be part of, and to give back to,” Jerome Maddox said.
That’s part of why having a Habitat for Humanity home being dedicated in the name of their son means so much. He described his son as “a giver.”
“Knowing that we're helping someone on the very end of this whole process to be able to have a home and to have those dreams that everybody wants to pursue for their families and make that a reality — but also to bring the community (together) to be able to help a family — I think he would be very happy and proud of that,” Anthony’s mother Frances Maddox said.
She said Anthony wouldn’t expect to be named a Hero of Habitat, but that he would be very honored to help a community member into their new home.
The 2020 Heroes of Habitat home in Anthony’s name is still in the funding phase. The 2019 home was dedicated in honor of Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, the army ranger killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2017. That home is getting its final touches.
Sgt. Anthony Maddox
Anthony was a quiet individual, Jerome Maddox explained. After enlisting in the Army in January 2011, Anthony was stationed at Fort Drum, New York.
“I could see the change,” Jerome Maddox said. “He wasn’t that little shy kid and little quiet kid we had sent away to the Army. He came back as a strong man. One that was a leader, not a follower.”
In January 2013, Anthony’s unit was deployed to Afghanistan. He served as a petroleum supply fueler and a heavy wheeled vehicle operator, but his parents said he had aspirations to become an Army Ranger — one of the foremost leading roles a U.S. soldier can hold in combat.
It was a dream Anthony held for years, and one that was close to being realized. Shortly before his deployment, Jerome Maddox said his son received a letter admitting him into Ranger school. He was to report for duty in Hawaii once his tour of duty concluded.
“It was a dream come true,” his father explained.
But Anthony would never live that dream.
It started with a phone call. Anthony was injured in an explosion in Afghanistan, Jerome Maddox said, and he and his wife were instructed to stay by their phones.
First reports said 57% of Anthony’s body being burned. That quickly escalated to 97%.
“All but his toes,” Jerome Maddox said. Anthony was wearing steel-toed boots, which shielded only one small part of his body from the blast.
Anthony was quickly moved to Germany for treatment but as his condition worsened, the Maddox family received more updates and hope for recovery dwindled.
“We found out that he didn’t make it. We had military come to the house. He had passed on from the injuries,” Jerome Maddox said. “That was probably the worst moment of our lives.”
He and his wife Frances say Anthony’s memory lives on every day.
Three years after their son’s passing, the couple traveled to Hawaii for a work conference. On a bus tour of Honolulu, they passed the Army base. It wasn’t a traditional stop on the tour, but the driver had a special event to mention.
That weekend, the base was honoring the lives of the 7,000 soldiers lives lost in the current war in the Middle East. In their memory, the boots of those 7,000 soldiers were placed in a field on the military base.
Frances and Jerome Maddox said their hearts dropped.
They were unable to get off the bus and onto base, but they found out that Anthony’s boots were indeed there that day. He made it to Hawaii after all.
“He was with us the whole time,” Frances Maddox said.
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