Friends and family met the 21-year-old's casket at Midway Airport Tuesday morning.
"We're trying to remember the good things. Today is hard but there are a lot of good things," said Todd Williams, uncle.
Meari died saving the lives of seven other soldiers in his platoon. Meari is from Plainfield, Ill., and was stationed at Fort Campbell.
"He's a hero for doing what he was doing. We all love him and miss him. They're not a greater thing you can do for someone else is giving your life," said Williams.
Meari and Special Jonathan M. Curtis, 24, of Belmont, Mass., died in a November 1 attack when they stopped an insurgent on a motorcycle who was wired with a body bomb, Williams said. Military officials have not released details about their deaths, but said they were the result of wounds from an IED.
"We were told by the Army that they were returning from patrol, somebody rode up on a motorcycle and Andy and Jonathan saw them turn, take a step towards them and [they] detonated and I.E.D. And they shielded the blast from all the other people from his platoon. It sounds like some of them were really seriously hurt but I think they're going to make it," said Williams.
Meari and Curtis both received posthumous awards.
"He was a hero for doing what he was doing. We all love him, we miss him. There's no greater thing that you can do for someone else than giving your life. And we're proud of him and we miss him deeply," said Williams.
"Not that anyone who lies his life down for his country any more or less courageous but this young man was an exceptional example of today's military," said Fred Vukadinovic, Patriot Guard riders.
The Patriot Guard will help escort Meari's body from Midway Airport to a Joliet funeral home. The route will go by Plainfield South High School where Meari was a student and his brothers attend. The flag flew at half staff at the school and will be given to Meari's mother in coming weeks.
"It's especially appropriate that we remember this week everyone who has passed away and served our country but it is always very sad when it's so close to home particularly with such a young man," said Tom Hernandez, Plainfield Comm. Consolidated School Dist. 202.
"I want everybody to think about the soldiers and especially on Veterans Day. And honor everybody past and present and know they are still in harm's way," said Williams.
A wake is scheduled for Wednesday from noon to 9 p.m. at Fred C. Dames Funeral Home, 3200 Black Road in Joliet. The funeral will be held Thursday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, 20953 W. Hoff Road in Elmwood, Ill.