"You could tell he was nervous and, at the time, I didn’t now why. He just went over how much he loved me, if anything was ever to happen to him how much he loved the kids and to be happy," Hotchkin recalled of her conversation last Tuesday.
The Naperville native was killed the following day when the tank he was riding in hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Hotchkin, a father of three young children, joined the army last year after he was laid off from his job as a builder. The 31-year-old was deployed to Afghanistan in December.
"He was there to provide for his family at a time when the economy was going down," said childhood friend Preston Bokos. "He joined to put food on the table for his kids. I thought it was very noble and courageous that he would go into war to defend his country."
The 1997 Hinsdale Central High School graduate was an All-American swimmer and will be remembered by family and friends for his charisma and generosity.
He met his wife Erin at a restaurant in Downers Grove and they married in 2001.
"He was wonderful. He was a good husband, amazing father and he loved his friends and his family," she said. "We were very lucky to have him in our life."
Hotchkin’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.
"It’s devastating and almost numbing to know that not only my best friend, but a family man, a man you could never forget is now gone off this planet," Bokos said. "I want people to know that there are fathers and mothers out there that are providing for their families and they are helping our country so that we can live in freedom."
Gunnar Hotchkin is survived by his wife, Erin; their three children, Taylor, Ethan and Tristan; his brother, Kurt; his parents, Christine and Randall; and his grandmother, Ly.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Gunnar Hotchkin Memorial Fund, Harris Bank of Hinsdale, 50 S. Lincoln St., Hinsdale, IL 60521, which will go directly to the support of his children.