Soldier's body returns to Chicago

Velez killed in Fort Hood shooting
November 16, 2009 2:55:49 PM PST
A procession led by the Patriot Guard escorted the body of Private Francheska Velez through her hometown. Velez, who was six weeks pregnant, was killed in the shootings at Fort Hood on November 5. She had returned from Iraq three days earlier and was filling out paperwork related to her pregnancy when Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opened fire.

At 10 a.m. the plane carrying Velez's body landed at Chicago's Midway Airport. Twelve days ago, Velez and a dozen others were killed in the shooting at Fort Hood.

"When we walked in and they took the body out of the plane it was heartbreaking. It was a beautiful ceremony what they did? Overall it was very hard and a really sad moment for all of us," said Sandy Rivera, cousin.

At least thirty people--all strangers-- gathered outside the hangar where Velez's body was transferred to a waiting hearse. Two of them were chosen to go inside and personally pay tribute. But even for those who stayed outside it was an emotional time.

"I'm grateful that the patriots came and got me and my mom to come in and present the flag of the U.S. for her and her family. It was just so heartbreaking," said Michele Guerrero, who came to pay her respects.

"It's important to show respect for those who serve our country so that we have what we have? our rights as U.S. citizens," said Manny Lopez.

Once the ceremony was concluded, a procession, led by the Patriot Guard took Velez's body through the city, first past her former high school, Kelvin Park, and finally to a Northwest Side funeral home. Throughout the procession, people saluted the hearse. Patriot Guard Dave Hume has led many of these processions, but this one, he says, was harder.

"To have someone killed on your own soil is a different story. You don't expect that to happen," said Hume.

Visitation for Private Velez will be held Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, a memorial service will be held at the funeral home. Velez will be buried with full military honors at Mt. Olive Cemetery in Chicago.


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