Hundreds of Mokena residents lined 191s Street and Wolf Road, with their eyes turned eastward. For hours they waited, their American flags fluttering and hearts hurting.
The community patiently sought the return of its fallen PFC Aaron Toppen, a 19-year-old killed by friendly fire while on patrol in Afghanistan.
Some huddled under umbrellas as a storm rolled in and back out; others stood uncovered, letting the rain wash over them like grief. Why wouldn't they stay, they said. It was "the least they could do."
Miles away, others paused and watched as a stranger's remains were carried solemnly through their towns: Oak Lawn, Alsip, Crestwood, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Tinley Park. They need not know him, to respect his sacrifice.
Visitation for Toppen will be held Monday, June 23 from 1 to 9 p.m. at Parkview Christian Church, 11100 Orland Parkway, Orland Park. Funeral will be held Tuesday, June 24 at 10 a.m., at Parkview. Family and friends ask for privacy from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., when the doors will open to the public.
Read more about the impact of Toppen's death on the community:
- Mokena's Fallen Soldier's Rank Upgraded Posthumously
- Grab a Yellow Ribbon, Help Line Fallen Soldier's Route Home
- In Memory of Aaron: Community Asked to Display Yellow Ribbons in Honor of the Fallen Soldier