COVINGTON, Ind. (WLFI) - For most in Illinois, it was thousands of strangers paying their respects.
But, as the procession neared deceased Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Witsman's hometown of Covington, Indiana, it became even more emotional.
It all started Wednesday night with hundreds placing flags along the procession route in Covington. Thursday evening, they waved in the breeze as the fallen hero returned home.
Many told NewsChannel 18 about the man Joshua was, and the hero he has become.
"He gave the best sacrifice he could give to America," family friend Cindy Bushue said. "Unfortunately, it was his life."
"He and I and a few of our friends, we're brothers, we've always been close," former coworker and friend Tyler Keele said.
"You're my hometown hero and one of the biggest heroes in my life," family friend Molly White said.
The hometown hero arrived Thursday evening in Covington with hundreds of people lining the street to pay their respects to the fallen hero.
The hearse arrived carrying a coffin draped with the American flag and arrived at Sunset's Covington Chapel.
Tears, sadness, yet a sense of pride were all found as people from many communities came together to show their support.
Family friends and former teachers of Witsman who said he always had a smile on his face, was very active in the community, and an all-around great man.
"I appreciate him, as a student, as a kid," Witsman's former teacher Pete Nickel said. "He was one of the happiest kids we ever had in the school."
"I appreciate everything he's done for this community, his country, and it's just a shame," family friend Scot Brewer said.
"I'd really like to thank him for everything he's done," acquaintance Karson Allen said. "We take for granted what we have now without him here and it really hits on us when we lose someone from the community."
Those who know Joshua said they will never forget the sacrifices he's made and will keep him in their hearts and will always know him as their hometown hero.
Friday, a public visitation will be held at the Covington High School gymnasium from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
A public memorial service is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., also at the high school gym.
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