Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
After exchanging hugs of solace with a fellow Homer Glen resident, Louise Withers already was visibly shaken as she prepared to pay her respects Wednesday to the family of Army Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri at the Modell Funeral Home in Homer Glen.
“It just hits home when it’s right down the street,” said Withers, who lives four doors down from the Olivieri family.
A steady stream of mourners numbering in the hundreds — including friends, family and people who never had met Olivieri — attended the visitation services.
A field artillery systems operator, Olivieri, 26, was among five soldiers who were killed June 6 in Iraq when militants attacked their base.
Rosemary Koning, who had known Olivieri since he was a boy, said the outpouring of support is meaningful to his family.
“I think for the family, it helps to know that people support them,” said Koning, also a Homer Glen resident. “His life was not in vain.”
“We appreciate the fact that he gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Koning’s daughter, Karlee Kane, of Lockport.
Former Homer Glen resident Gail Hayes said she attended the wake out of respect to the Olivieri family.
“We just wanted to pay our respects,” Hayes said. “The flags all over town just show respect.”
Army veteran Charles Palumbo said the overwhelming show of sympathy and support to Olivieri’s family did not surprise him.
“I came here to pay my respects,” said Palumbo, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war. “He’s a veteran. He’s one of us. He’s family. He deserves it. He served his country well.”
After leaving the funeral home, Palumbo said the family was doing their best to hold up but that “you could see the pain in their eyes.”
About 10 Patriot Guard Riders formed an honor guard outside to acknowledge Olivieri’s service.
“We’re here for him, his family and the community,” said Dave Welsh, one of the group’s ride captains. “This is the highest honor I’ve ever had.”
The Patriot Guard Riders earlier had escorted Oliveri’s body to the funeral home from Lewis University Airport. The group also is to participate in today’s funeral services.
Olivieri and four others belonging to the 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kan., were killed in Baghdad when insurgents launched an attack on their base, division officials said. The soldiers deployed to Iraq in November 2010.
They were part of the 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, supporting the development of Iraq forces and the improvement of civilian life in central Iraq.
Each of the soldiers had served less than two years and each was on his first deployment.
Homer Glen officials have asked those who wish to pay tribute to Olivieri to line Bell Road between 143rd and 159th streets, and 159th Street from Bell to Gougar roads, before
his funeral service at 10 a.m. today
at the funeral home, 12641 W. 143rd St.
The funeral procession is expected to leave the funeral home about 10:30 a.m.
Interment will be at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.