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updated: 6/24/2014 4:56 PM

Mokena soldier laid to rest

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  • Aaron Toppen

      Aaron Toppen

 
Associated Press

A 19-year-old soldier from Mokena who was killed in Afghanistan was laid to rest Tuesday after hundreds of mourners attended his funeral in Orland Park.

Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen of Mokena was one of five American service members killed this month when a U.S. airstrike was called to help defend against a Taliban ambush.

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American flags and yellow ribbons adorned Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park where the funeral was held. A military guard watched Toppen's casket as his body was transported to the church.

Inside, photos of Toppen in his uniform stood alongside his flag-draped casket. Following the two-hour service, Toppen's remains were taken by a horse-drawn carriage to St. John's Cemetery in Mokena.

Relatives of Toppen told WFLD-TV they were touched by the outpouring of support.

"We all have a hole in our hearts about the size of a 19-year-old hero and we will never be able to fill that. But today will help us start to heal," Jack Winter, Toppen's uncle said.

Gov. Pat Quinn attended Toppen's wake on Monday. The governor called Toppen "a special hero who had a servant's heart."

On Saturday, dozens of cars and motorcycles decorated with American flags took part in a procession to accompany Toppen's remains after his casket arrived at Chicago's Midway International Airport.

An estimated 30,000-strong crowd stood saluting and waving flags along the 20-mile route to Mokena.

Those who knew Toppen said he had a passion for serving his country from a young age.

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