Pearson was remembered as a courageous person, quiet observer and naturally talented musician.
At his funeral, a video screen flashed pictures of the Army private, his casket draped by an American flag.
Pearson's service was held at a funeral home in Joliet. The Patriot Guard then escorted his body to Abraham Lincoln Cemetery in Elwood for burial.
The funeral procession stretched for miles, and the show of support seemed endless. Michael Pearson's homecoming and the shock over the circumstances that caused it triggered an outpouring of emotion.
It's sorrowful that he died the way he did," said Erwin Groenendal.
During the funeral service, Kristopher Craig talked about his younger brother and fellow soldier.
"I thank God that I was part of this, and I thank God I had him in my life for 22 years," he said.
"Listening to everybody at the service today, we really lost a special, special human being. He helped others all the time, and he was a joyful person. His love of music animated his life," Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said. "While God didn't give him a long life, he certainly gave him a purposeful life."
"Our country is blessed by having young men like Michael Pearson," the governor also said.
On the journey to Pearson's final resting place, strangers sent a personal message through their presence.
"People in the northbound lanes of I-55, pulling their cars over on the side of the road, putting their hands over their heart, whether they were military or past military saluting. Emotions ran very high, very high. People were standing outside of their cars on the side of the road everywhere we went," said Fred Mitchell of the Patriot Guard. "Michael was doing what he could. This is the least I can do today to respect and honor what he was doing."
Many of those paying their respects did so not because they knew Pearson, but out of a desire to show support for what he represented.
Paul Wallen came with his 9-year-old son.
"I brought him out here because I wanted him to see how people can come together after an event like this," Wallen said.
As the sun set over the Abraham Lincoln Cemetery, Private Pearson took his place among the nation's honored as a young man who volunteered for war but died on American soil. ABC7 is told he was a person who saw the Army as a path to opportunity and saw honor through service.