Welcome home parties for troops have become common in recent years as members of the military return after serving stints overseas.
The ceremonies usually include an escort from the airport by local police and members of veteran organizations; many who mount their motorcycles for the ride home. The procession usually advances through a flag line until it arrives at the soldier’s home where he or she is greeted by friends and family members.
They’re emotional, patriotic experiences and well-deserved events that soldiers appreciate. But these military members are quick to add that they were just doing their jobs while stationed overseas and don’t deserve any special attention.
Unfortunately, there was no welcome home party for Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen, 19, of Mokena, who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month during a friendly-fire airstrike.
But area residents should be proud of the way they honored the fallen soldier on Saturday. Thousands of residents from throughout the southwest suburbs lined Cicero Avenue to pay tribute to Toppen as his remains were transported from Midway Airport to Mokena.
Yellow ribbons were attached to practically every light pole along the route, and those who turned out waved American flags, displayed homemade signs and placed their hands on their hearts as the hearse slowly proceeded through Oak Lawn, Alsip, Crestwood, Midlothian, Oak Forest and Tinley Park.
It was a touching and patriotic tribute that hopefully will lend just a bit of comfort to Toppen’s family as they struggle with the unimaginable grief of losing a son.
But the show of support was not surprising. Residents from our area have time and time again supported the troops and veterans by raising money, sending care packages, writing letters and erecting memorials to the fallen. Saturday was just another example of that support.