Slain Soldier Velez Receives Hero's Welcome Home

By Andrew Greiner
|  Monday, Nov 16, 2009  |  Updated 6:00 PM CDT
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Fort Hood Massacre Takes Midwestern Toll

Francheska Velez's flag-draped casket comes off a charter flight at Chicago's Midway Airport on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009.

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Pfc. Velez Welcomed Home as a Hero

Pfc. Francheska Velez was one of 13 victims in the mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.
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The body of slain soldier Francheska Velez came home this morning.

Her body arrived at Midway Airport at 10 a.m. Her casket was then escorted to the Montclair Luciana Funeral Home on the city’s Westside from the Patriot Guard, a motorcycle group.

For over an hour, the procession weaved through the city, passing Velez's former high school in Humbolt Park, where students and the honor guard stood at attention.

Velez was one of the 13 victims from the massacre at Fort Hood, when Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire in a soldier readiness center at the base.

The 21-year-old was pregnant at the time of her death.

She had just returned from a tour in Iraq, from which she was released because of her pregnancy. She planned to come home to Chicago to prepare for her child’s birth.

But instead of coming home to a celebration, Velez returned to mourners, many of them strangers who just wanted to pay their respects.

"The hardest thing is to accept the reality that she is gone," Juan Velez, her father, told the Sun-Times through an interpreter.

Her old neighborhood knows the pain of loss.  Another soldier and friend of Velez's, Jason Vasquez, was killed in Afghanistan last September. 

"When I lost my son, I knew he was in harm's way.  But for them to have it happen at home, it makes it a lot harder," said Vasquez's father, Anthony.

Velez will be buried on Thursday. Velez is survived by her father, Juan Velez, mother, Eileen Velez and two brothers, Juan Guiermo Velez and Andrew Velez.

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