Farewell to a hero: Fallen Mokena soldier laid to rest Tuesday - FOX 32 News Chicago

Farewell to a hero: Fallen Mokena soldier laid to rest Tuesday

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ORLAND PARK, Ill. (FOX 32 News) - A Mokena soldier killed in Afghanistan was laid to rest Tuesday morning at St. John's Cemetery.

Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen, 19, was one of five American service members killed on June 9 when a U.S. airstrike was called in to help defend against a Taliban ambush. He has been given full military honors.

His last journey was by horse drawn funeral carriage. The slow and quiet procession gave people on Wolf Road in Orland Park a chance to convey their unspoken condolences.

Hundreds turned out for Toppen's funeral at Parkview Christian Church. His family arrived at the church early Tuesday and was greeted by a corridor of American flags and yellow ribbons. There has been a military guard near his casket since his body was transported from the airport to the church.

Toppen's family said they were touched by the outpour of support.

"We all have a hole in our hearts about the size of a 19-year-old hero and we will never be able to fill that. But today will help us start to heal," Jack Winter, Toppen's uncle said.

Toppen's family suffers double the heartbreak, though. His father died suddenly in February.

Toppen's visitation was held Monday evening at Parkview Christian Church. Toppen and his family were longtime members of the church.

“This was something he was called to do as a little boy," said Pastor Tim Harlow of Parkview Christian Church.

On Saturday, dozens of cars and motorcycles decorated with American flags took part in a procession to accompany Toppen's remains after his casket arrived at Chicago's Midway International Airport. An estimated 30, 000 people stood saluting and waving flags along the 20-mile route to Mokena.

Those who knew Toppen said he had a passion for serving his country from a very young age. He had a tattoo inked on his body that read, "For those I love, I sacrifice," accompanies by his grandfather's military dog tags.

In a military funeral, the family receives an American flag folded in a triangle. Toppen's family said that on their travels, people have shown them their triangle flags, demonstrating their connection and shared sorrow.

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