If you drove through Bloomington-Normal this week, you undoubtedly saw a large number of American flags in front of houses and on the side of roads.
Hundreds of people visited Eastview Christian Church Saturday morning to pay respects to the family of Army Ranger and Sergeant Josh Rodgers.
Rodgers was killed from small-arms fire in Afghanistan last week. The 2013 Normal Community High School graduate and another soldier who died in the same battle were members of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Rodgers' body was welcomed home to Bloomington with a crowd of supporters at Central Illinois Regional Airport Friday.
Family, friends, Rangers, and community members gathered for a celebration of Josh's life Saturday afternoon. Chicago Blackhawks' Jim Cornelison started the ceremony by singing the National Anthem.
Kevin Rodgers, Josh's father, spoke on behalf of the family. Rodgers said there were many people in the community that helped raise Josh.
"This man was just as much a product of this community as he was our child. We hope you all take pride in the man you helped mold and, for this, we owe you all a debt of gratitude," said Rodgers.
Rodgers thanked the community and country for the opportunity to serve and sacrifice on their behalf.
Josh's childhood friend Brandon said Josh taught him to care about friends and family before himself.
"Josh would go above and beyond for any of his friends and family members before he even hesitated to do something for himself. He had your back whenever you needed it and would stick up for anyone," said Brandon.
Brandon ended his speech with a quote from The Guardian to remember Rodgers.
"What makes a legend? Is it what they did while they were alive or how they are remembered when they are gone?"
After hearing comments and remembrance notes read by Deputy Commander for Support of the 75th Ranger Regiment Thomas Goldner, the group joined Rangers in chanting the Ranger Creed.
Pall bearers then moved Rodgers' casket to the hearse to start his final journey home to rest.
Hundreds of supporters stood along the funeral procession route with flags waving in the air.
Supporter Lloyd Cook said the community support for Rodgers was outstanding.
"My heart just dropped to see the patriotism shown today. This shows how America is the greatest," said Cook.
Cook said he was never in the service or lost anyone that served, but he deeply respects what soldiers go through and give their lives for.
Supporter Diane McCoy said it was an honor and privilege to join the community in remembering Rodgers.
"It's amazing to celebrate a young man from our country that lives right here in our town that paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life for not only our country, but the citizens of that country as well," said McCoy.
McCoy also said she was glad to see people of all ages watching the procession.
"This is part of history, and it's our history. It's great that children will be able to look back one day and know that they were here honoring one of our fallen," said McCoy.
Rodgers was finally laid to rest in a private burial at Evergreen Cemetery.
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