Across the country local newspapers have chronicled the coming home of those killed in these wars. Yesterday it was Jen McCoy of the Portage Daily Register who ably performed the duty with photographs andthis poignantly descriptive piece, on the return of Wisconsin native, Sgt. Daniel Thompson, who was killed in Afghanistan.
Lisa Thompson retained her motherly instincts Tuesday, even as
her only child returned to her draped in an American flag.
Standing on the tarmac at Dane County Regional Airport a little
after 9 a.m. Tuesday, she voiced concern that everyone was warm
enough and had water to drink as she waited for her son, Sgt.
Daniel Thompson, to come home. Thompson, 24, of Madison, a 2003
graduate of Portage High School, was killed in Afghanistan on Feb.
The family arrived at Wisconsin Aviation from Portage in a white
limousine in the cold early morning hours. Multiple police cruisers
escorted the family, making sure there were no more barriers to
stop them from seeing him.
Large flags unfurled as the family arrived, held by Wisconsin
members of the Patriot Guard Riders, who stood silently to honor
Thompson and his relatives.
Maria Steinke wore a three-diamond pendant given to her by her
love of more than three years. Lisa Thompson wore a silver charm
bracelet with “Daniel” spelled out in block letters.
There was no official announcement that the plane had arrived.
Mark Erd, Lisa’s brother, saw an aircraft land at about 9:15 a.m.
He got out of the limousine and started videotaping, along with
Lisa’s sister, Dee Voigt.
When they saw members of the Army honor guard approach the
plane, they knew Sgt. Thompson had returned home.
More than 20 friends and family members breathed deeply, wiped
away tears, and waited for a scene that they knew would rattle
their souls. There was little conversation as they watched.
When Lisa realized it was the plane they had been waiting for,
she dropped to the ground, stunned at the reality of what was
happening. Two military jets flew over in a nod of solidarity.
About 25 feet in front of the small group, the casket was
lowered and put gently into a silver hearse. Army pallbearers and
police officials saluted. The heaviness of the pain was so great
that Steinke collapsed, but her father, David, caught her and
lifted her back up.
It took only a matter of minutes for the transition to take
place; the family then followed the hearse back to Portage. After a
week of grieving without his presence, the Thompson family could do
so with him nearby.
“He’s home. I’m just so happy he’s home,” Lisa said.
On both sides of Highway 51 during the trip back to Portage,
people put a hand over their heart or held a flag. In Poynette –
Steinke’s hometown – students stood behind a chain-link fence and
clusters of residents lined the way back to Portage. Some residents
stopped their cars and got out to stand.
It seemed that at every intersection, more and more police and
fire vehicles joined the processional. At the end, Lisa was able to
touch her son again at Pflanz Mantey Mendrala Funeral Home. She
felt his dog tags, kissed the casket and hugged it tightly. Lisa
brought Steinke over to lay their heads on top of it.
“This feels good. I feel comforted,” Lisa said.