Army Private Michael Olivieri of Homer Glen was one of five soldiers killed when militants attacked their base June 6 in Baghdad.
The 26-year-old field artillery systems operator had planned to return to Illinois this month for his sister's wedding and his own first wedding anniversary, which was Monday. He was part of the 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade which supports the development of Iraq forces and the improvement of civilian life in central Iraq.
Olivieri and the other victims had each served less than two years. Each was on his first deployment.
Homer Glen resident JoAnn Armstrong is among the many who never met her fellow resident but still mourned his passing.
"He has given his life for our country. We have no idea how free we are, and we should value it," she said.
Dozens of American flags adorned the procession route as did the Patriot Flag, currently touring 50 states in 50 weeks.
Former New York City firefighter Joe Torrino, who survived the collapse of both World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, says soldiers like Olivieri must be remembered.
"A half million people have given their lives since the time of George Washington, and hundreds of thousands are defending our freedom right now," said Torrino.
Patriot Guard rider John Conrath helped to form an honor guard outside Thursday's funeral service to acknowledge Olivieri's sacrifice.
"I truly feel the kids need that respect from all citizens for what they are doing," said Conrath.
Michael Olivieri graduated from Lockport Township High School in 2002 and attended Southern Illinois University before joining the service.
Friends say Olivieri - known to those who loved him as Mikey - loved the Chicago Cubs. His family shared a picture of him at Wrigley Field dugout at his funeral as his selflessness and commitment were remembered.
"Michael is with us. His presence is with us and, even if you don't believe in heaven, we will see Mike again some day," said John Zlogar of Modell Funeral Home.
Michael Olivieri was buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. His family hopes to raise money to fund a hero's quiet room at the Homer Township Public Library to honor Michael and other courageous military men and women.