"He's a very smart, intelligent young man. Very caring. And he died where his dream was. He wanted to be in the Army," said Kisha Bowen, cousin.
Corp. Hale grew up in Maywood and attended Naperville Central High School.
"The real heroism is that he volunteered to go into the army to serve us so that we might be free," said Mayor George Pradel, Naperville
The 23-year-old is survived by his wife and three children, including a newborn he never met.
"My son is going to be dearly missed. He was a hero to us. And that's what he'll always be in our hearts," said Vergie Howard, mother.
"He was very fun loving and caring. Very family oriented. He will truly be missed," said Bowen.
"He was such a great dad. Even to kids that, you know, he didn't hardly know. Or nieces and nephews. He was so good with kids. The best husband, brother, anybody you could ever ask for," said Brittney Shirley, sister-in-law.
Several officials attended the funeral, which included a 21-gun salute and end with 'taps'.
"The highest office in our land is the office of citizen. And it's very important that we honor James' life today and every day and never forget him," said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn
Hale was in his second tour of duty at Iraq. Staff Sergeant Marcus Mitchell met Hale just after basic training and was with him during Hale's first tour in Iraq in 2003.
"He went through tremendous things- ambushes. He was strong. One thing I can remember about him is … family meant everything to him," said Sgt. Marcus Mitchell, friend
Hale is one of two servicemen with ties to Naperville killed in the line of duty last week. Marine Lance Corporal Tony Mihalo was killed in Afghanistan.