HOPEDALE, Ill. -- People from around the country are converging on central Illinois to honor a fallen marine. Hopedale native Marine Capt. Reid Nannen died after his fighter jet crashed March 1st during a blizzard.
The crash happened in a remote and rugged area of Reno, Nevada. Capt. Nannen was a student at the Top Gun school.
A sea of stars and stripes will greet you in Hopedale as the town prepares to say goodbye.
"When I was in the marine corp I went up to the theater and they always played the national anthem and I would get the goosebumps, I got them again today," said one Vietnam veteran.
Thursday hundreds of veterans, community members, students and strangers lined flags along the streets Marine Capt. Reid Nannen will travel to his burial.
"We've got people here from Kewanee, Pekin, Peoria, Bloomington. I mean we have people coming in from all over," said Larry Eckhardt, known across the country as the Flagman. He's traveled to over 100 towns to remember service members who lost their lives.
"It gives everyone a chance to say thanks," said Eckhardt.
So many volunteers turned out Thursday they lined 22 miles of road with more than 2,000 flags in just two and a half hours.
"We're so proud to have this kind of a community. We're so proud to have a young man who served as he did. I mean Hopedale is a wonderful place," said Hopedale resident Paula Gregory.
For those who knew him, the flags are a reminder Capt. Nannen followed his dream.
"We're the same age, we're three days apart. He's wanted to fly planes his whole life. He used to jump of his stairs and act like he was flying. He wanted to fly," said Larry Maness.
Still, it doesn't make the loss any easier as he leaves behind a wife and four small children, including a baby he never had the chance to meet.
"You can say, 'oh he was doing what he loved' but he loved his family too and I'm sure he'd much rather be doing that," said Maness. "It's devastating no matter how you think about it."
Capt. Nannen may be gone, but this small community will never forget him.
The community will line the streets of Hopedale Friday at 3:15 p.m. as Capt. Nannen departs for the visitation at 4 pm at Olympia High School in Stanford.
His funeral has been scheduled for Saturday at Eastview Christian Church in Normal. It will begin at 10 am. He will then be taken to Springfield for burial.