If anyone was going to hunt down Osama bin Laden, Darlene Rath was willing to bet on her son, Josh.
The Tinley-born soldier had a knack for spotting the lizard camouflaged against the tree—he was just that kind of guy. He had a sharp eye and was quick to point it out.
Josh's nature led him to enlist with a childhood friend, and his mother Darlene was unnerved to hear they'd chosen the infantry. But it had all been part of their plan.
"They decided, if they were going to be in, they were going to be where the action was," Rath said. "He found the action, for sure.' ... I thought, 'These two are gonna go get him.'"
During his second tour of duty with the U.S. Army in January 2009, a suicide bomber rocked the vicinity of Staff Sgt. Josh Rath and his unit. The blast internally severed Josh's brainstem and quickly snuffed out his life. Unlike some of his comrades, his body was relatively unscathed in its stillness, his cousin Craig Miller said—so peaceful and clean was his appearance, some medics could not determine cause of death at first glance.
But the lasting effects of his loss were crystal clear. Josh left behind a loving family and devoted fiancée.
"When he died, I was so disappointed," Rath said. "I really thought that Josh was going to stumble across Osama. I really thought, 'Josh is going to take him out.'"
Two years later, Oak Forest's Craig Miller heard the news of Osama bin Laden's death through a different grapevine than most.
Around 10 p.m. Sunday, May 1, Miller's phone rang, and the voice on the other end—his uncle's—told him that Osama bin Laden, who had sparked the war that killed Josh, was dead.
"Shock, relief, then doubt," said Miller, of his emotions at the news. "Sad because it was a little piece of closure, but it's never full."
When Josh was just over a year old, his family moved to Alabama, where his parents and family live today—and where Josh was laid to rest. His mother Darlene spoke with Patch about her reactions to bin Laden's death.
"At first I thought, 'Well, it's justice,'" Rath said. "But I'm trying to be real careful about being overly joyous.
"I'm calling it 'celebrating his defeat.'"
Rath meditates on her religious beliefs in her treatment of her enemies—but like so many Americans, she has not forgotten.
"Our lives, every single American life, was changed on 9-11," she said. "We didn't know the fear we knew, before 9-11."
Josh's fiancée, Kim Taylor, told Darlene she would visit his gravesite with their friends, with his favorite drink in hand for a toast to the news.
"I'm not going, because as far as I know his favorite drink is cream soda," Darlene said, laughing.
But Taylor, who was set to marry Josh in June 2009, wore a T-shirt Monday night with his face on it, and him in her heart to mark the moment in American history.
"It's a time of celebration," Rath said. "It just seems like the right thing to do. It's a very bittersweet moment.
"Josh didn't do it, but I'm glad somebody did."
Read more about Miller, Rath and others affected by the death of Osama bin Laden by visiting A Seat at The Table: A Local VFW Remembers Those Lost.