ARCOLA – A procession bringing home the body of Cpl. Allen Roberts turned into a solemnly patriotic parade Wednesday morning in downtown Arcola.
Crowds lined Arcola's Main Street in a show of thanks for the service of Cpl. Roberts. The Marine grew up in nearby Kemp and graduated from Arcola High School in 2004. He died last week in a Humvee accident near Al Asad, Iraq.
Along the route, people waved flags and wiped tears, mourning a hometown son. Lines of schoolchildren waved their flags high as the procession passed.
Patty Vincent didn't mind the biting wind as she raised a sign declaring Cpl. Roberts her hero.
"There's a lot of heavy hearts here today," Vincent said. "We'll miss him."
Cpl. Roberts' body arrived at about 9 Wednesday morning in Savoy. His silver casket was draped with an American flag, and his family members huddled in a quiet prayer after the casket was taken off a plane at Willard Airport.
Eight Marine pallbearers used precise, clipped steps to move Cpl. Roberts' casket into a long white hearse.
Slowly and solemnly, they saluted the casket in unison after sliding it into the hearse.
Outside, snow flurries held off during the procession to Arcola.
"It's almost like it quit just for us," Vincent said in Arcola, while waiting for the procession to arrive.
A convoy of law enforcement officials and Cpl. Roberts' family members escorted his body home from Savoy.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders waved flags from their pickup trucks, and firefighters raised their ladders along U.S. 45 to honor Cpl. Roberts.
Drivers pulled over onto the highway's shoulder and stepped out of their vehicles. Some waved flags; others stood with hats off and hands over hearts.
Two ladder trucks hoisted an enormous American flag over Main Street; it twisted and rippled in the wind. Flags lined the street, with Arcola's VFW and American Legion and Champaign's Marine Corps League all raising flags in honor of Cpl. Roberts.
Theresa Nave and Nick Shields stood side by side, tears in their eyes, after pallbearers took Cpl. Roberts' casket into Edwards Funeral Home downtown.
Nave had Cpl. Roberts in her fourth-grade class; Shields grew up with Cpl. Roberts in Kemp.
Shields said the next few days will be rough, but he's glad so many people are coming together to remember Cpl. Roberts.
Nave said Cpl. Roberts was one of her favorite students and made things fun.
"Allen got along with everybody," Nave said. "He wanted everybody to be happy."