Fallen Soldier From Plainfield Returns Home

UPDATED 11/9/10 4:08 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – The body of a fallen U.S. soldier from Plainfield, killed by a bomb in Afghanistan, has returned home. U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Meari, 21, was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Nov. 1, when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports that Meari’s body arrived at Midway International Airport on Tuesday, where an honor guard led a solemn procession to take the fallen hero through his hometown of Plainfield.

It was something his family believes he would have wanted.

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An Army honor guard was in place as the procession left their airport. The military accompanied the hearse all along the way, along with police, and the Patriot Guard Riders, local motorcyclists who traditionally turn out for the return of fallen soldiers.

soldier funeral Fallen Soldier From Plainfield Returns Home

Dozens of members of the Patriot Guard escort Army Pfc. Andrew Meari's body. (credit: Bernie Tafoya/WBBM)

Biker Fred Vukadinovic told CBS 2’s Mike Parker that “these are tragic times and we’re here to help in any way we can to take care of America’s son.”

Just before the procession reached Plainfield South High School, as many as a thousand streamed outside to stand, carrying flags, to show their respect for their former classmate.

The young GI’s Uncle, Todd Williams, talked about how Meari and another GI – Jonathan Curtis of Massachusetts, shielded others in their unit from an IED blast in Afghanistan.

“They hardly had any time to react,” Williams said. “But they did and they took the brunt of the explosion and thanks to them, the other soldiers, it sounds like they’re all going to make it. He was a hero for doing what he was doing. We’re going to miss him.”

Meari, a member of the 101st Airborne, was killed when an insurgent approached his platoon on a motorcycle. Meari saw the attacker and attempted to intercept him, in what his commanding officer said was a selfless act of heroism.

Also killed in the attack was U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan M. Curtis, 24, of Belmont, Mass.

“They were returning from patrol. Somebody rode up on a motorcycle, and Andy and Jonathan saw him turn, took a step toward him, and they detonated an IED,” Williams said, “and (Meari) shielded the blast from all the other people in his platoon. It sounds like some of them were really seriously hurt, but I think they’re all going to make it.”

Williams said the family is trying to remember the best of times.

“On the way down, we were talking about how my daughters and him would have games, and things that we were going to do. We were going to send some pennies with him, because he taught them how to have penny fights – just little things like that,” he said. “We’re trying to remember the good things.”

The procession took Meari’s body to his old high school, Plainfield South at 7800 Caton Farm Rd. in Plainfield, where his two younger brothers still attend. Three thousand students then gathered outside to honor Meari, who graduated just a few years ago.

Afterward, the procession took Meari’s body to at Fred C. Dames Funeral Home, at 3200 Black Road in Joliet, where his wake and visitation will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The funeral service, with military honors, will be at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, 20953 W. Hoff Road in Elwood.

Meari will be buried at Elwood National Cemetery.

  • mike

    You will never be able to Thank this kid enough for his commitment and dedication to keeping this country safe God Bless him and his family I’m sorry for your loss

  • A mom

    I saw this motorcade on the Stevenson. Very powerful- and am so sorry to read this is the reason why. Your son, brother, grandson, nephew is a true hero. My thoughts and gratitude are with you – but my heart aches for the price these two fine soldiers paid. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  • Tom

    May the American spirit that you caried with you on the battlefield, embolden and strengthen your comrads and patriots near and far. Rest In Peace Brother.

  • A Mommy too

    “my heart aches for the price these two fine soldiers paid”

    I could not have said it any better myself.

    Too young to die. Thanks for the fight! God Bless you and your family!!!

  • Kim

    A true hero! My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

  • Lia

    This story touched my heart, and I am heartbroken to hear the of the tragic loss for your family. Andrew was truly a hero! I have family serving in the Army in Afghanistan as well, so I know how difficult everyday can be. I hope all of our soldiers can be as courageous as Andrew was. To the Meari’s, you raised an exceptional and outstanding man!

  • Donald Coffel

    A true hero I was so saddened when I watched the procedure go by so young wiill never be able to thank him enough.God bless him and his family our prayers are with them.

  • Girl in bright pink hoodie in footage

    andrew i miss you and i thank god everyday for the reason he put you on this earth. we all love and miss you very much and thank you for everything you did for our country. R.I. P. hun

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