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Sad salute to local soldier killed in Iraq

SharOlivieri says goodbye her husbfollowing service Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Elwood Thursday. | Scott Olson~Getty Images

Sharon Olivieri says goodbye to her husband following the service at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood on Thursday. | Scott Olson~Getty Images

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Updated: September 29, 2011 12:32AM

Flags waved, tears flowed and hundreds of supporters lined roads from Homer Glen to Elwood on Thursday to pay tribute to U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Olivieri, who was laid to rest at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

The Homer Glen resident, remembered as a “great guy” and respected for his military service by those who came out to pay tribute, was killed in Iraq on June 6 along with four others when militants attacked their base.

At a brief and somber graveside military service, Olivieri’s wife, Sharon; parents Michael and Jody; and three siblings were surrounded by hundreds of mourners as they sat tearfully in white folding chairs in front of a flag-draped casket.

They held hands tightly as Olivieri was given a 21-gun salute and “Taps” was played. Members of the honor guard then folded the U.S. flag with military precision and slowly saluted before U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald presented flags to Olivieri’s wife and mother.

Mourners filed past the gray casket, and then family members gathered around it for several minutes for a last goodbye.

Sharon Olivieri put her head down on the casket while clutching her husband’s flag. The couple were one week shy of their first wedding anniversary when the 26-year-old Olivieri was killed.

“He made our niece the happiest we have ever seen her. They were a beautiful couple,” said Sharon’s aunt, Donna Beckman.

Before the procession left the Modell Funeral Home in Homer Glen, John Fuentes and Martin Skolarus stood across the street with a handmade banner that read: “Thank you Homer hero Pfc Michael Olivieri.”

“I didn’t know Mike,” Fuentes said, “but I like heroes. We decided to come and respect a hero.”

It was one of many such signs on that street supporting the hometown hero, including one that read: “Mikey — He lives in the hearts he leaves behind.”

Contributing: Amy Lee

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