Aaron Toppen, Mokena soldier killed in Afghanistan, promoted posthumously

Aaron Toppen, the soldier from Mokena who was killed this month in Afghanistan, has had his rank upgraded posthumously.

The SouthtownStar reports the military has informed his family that Toppen was promoted to the rank of private first class, according to Vandenberg Funeral Home in Tinley Park, which is handling funeral arrangements and was notified Wednesday by the family.

The 19-year-old was one of five American soldiers killed June 9 by friendly fire while on a patrol. Military officials said an air strike was called in after the unit was ambushed by the Taliban. It was one of the deadliest friendly-fire incidents in the nearly 14-year war.

A military escort is being arranged to fly Toppen's body from Delaware to Chicago's Midway Airport, with the escort expected to travel through several Southland communities. People have been tying yellow ribbons along the route, which will include major streets such as Cicero and Harlem avenues and Wolf Road.

Toppen's body is expected to return to Mokena Saturday. Visitation will be held at Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park from 1-9 p.m. on June 23. A memorial service will be held at the church on June 24 at 10 a.m. Toppen will be buried at St. John's Cemetary in Mokena.

The 2013 Lincoln-Way East High School graduate enlisted in July and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, an Army spokesman said. He had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the NATO Medal.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
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