Sometimes in life, it is hard to find hope.
For the family of PFC Aaron Toppen, it must be almost impossible.
South of I80, specifically the community of Mokena is grieving the loss of this young solider, Aaron, who was killed in friendly fire almost two weeks ago in Afghanistan.
Every day last week, on my travels through Mokena, I would notice more yellow ribbons and more flags lining the streets. When stopping in at a local grocery store for ice cream, I noticed signs to purchase an American Flag to donate for the procession. Each day, another business would be honoring PFC Toppen and his family with words on their marquee. While my heart was heavy explaining the many flags, ribbons and signs to my little ones, it made me proud to know that this South of I80 community was honoring Aaron Toppen and his family with such dignity and grace.
The outpouring of love from the community did not stop with ribbons and flags, however.
Private First Class Toppen whose rank was raised post-humously was brought home Saturday.
To welcome him, the streets of his hometown were lined with hundreds of people. Many of whom didn’t know Aaron or his family, but wanted to show respect for a fallen soldier. The people of Mokena and the surrounding communities of Frankfort, New Lenox, and Tinley Park were carrying flags often with hands placed over their hearts and soaked from the afternoon downpour all to pay respect to their hometown hero who was just nineteen years old.
This tragedy can never be made right for Aaron Toppen’s family.
A community coming together to honor a soldier killed in the line of duty, however, is a glimmer of hope that may help to give this family some comfort.
Well done, Mokena.
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