It was the kind of return home Army Spc. Jared Stanker's family hoped and prayed they'd never have to see.
The 22-year-old's remains arrived at the National Guard Hangar at Midway Airport on Thursday morning for a procession to the Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn.
Stanker, a graduate of Brother Rice High School, was killed in a roadside bombing attack in Afghanistan. He is the first military casualty from his hometown of Evergreen Park, Mayor Jim Sexton said.
Escorted by police, the funeral procession passed under a makeshift memorial while firefighters extended their truck's ladders to simulate the crossed swords of brothers in arms.
"It's devastating to see that this happened to somebody that we know," said Lynze Farbak, who was one of hundreds to stood silently and held American flags during the procession down Cicero Avenue.
Stanker was one of seven troops killed in the bombing and part of the contingent of 18 dead soldiers that received a salute from the President last week at Dover Air Force base.
His family had recently sent gifts to Afghanistan to celebrate his 22nd birthday. His birthday was on Oct. 13. He joined the military when he was just 18, the Southtown Star Reports.
"It's so overwhelming to see somebody from your hometown. You never expect that. It's just -- It could be my son someday," said Kelly Farrel.
"He had such a great personality. He was such a nice young man and for this to happen to him at such an early age in life and not reach his full potential, it's just -- we got a big hole in our hearts today," said Brother Rice High School Assistant Principal Bob Alberts.