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The Final Trip Home of Pfc. Aaron Toppen

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On June 9, 2014, during a security operation in southern Afghanistan, a unit of U.S. and Afghan soldiers was hit by a friendly fire airstrike, killing five Americans and one Afghan. One of the Americans was 19-year-old Private First Class Aaron Toppen, of Mokena, Illinois. A series of memorials and transfers then began, to return his body home to the U.S. for burial -- a sequence of events carried out some 2,200 times since the start of the war in Afghanistan. Once his remains arrived in Chicago, Getty Images photographer Scott Olson stayed with the family through the processions, visitations, services, and burial, documenting the final journey of one of the most recent soldiers to have died in Afghanistan. Pfc. Toppen, who had always wanted to join the Army, signed on last July, and had only arrived in Afghanistan this March. Today's entry is part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [33 photos]

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Jack Winter holds a picture of his nephew Aaron Toppen as family and friends gather to grieve at Toppen's mother's home on June 10, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. Soldiers arrived at the home the night before to inform Pam Toppen that her 19-year-old son Aaron was one of five U.S and one Afghan soldiers killed in what is believed to be a friendly-fire incident during a firefight in Zabul Province. Afghanistan, on June 9, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Jack Winter holds a picture of his nephew Aaron Toppen as family and friends gather to grieve at Toppen's mother's home on June 10, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. Soldiers arrived at the home the night before to inform Pam Toppen that her 19-year-old son Aaron was one of five U.S and one Afghan soldiers killed in what is believed to be a friendly-fire incident during a firefight in Zabul Province. Afghanistan, on June 9, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Jack Winter stands alongside a flag, a statue of a soldier and a yellow ribbon that decorate the front of his sister's home as family and friends drop by to help her grieve the death of her son Aaron on June 10, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Soldiers pay last respects to two fallen heroes from Dagger Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division during a memorial ceremony June 13 at the chapel on Forward Operating Base Apache, Zabul province, Afghanistan. Remembered were Cpl. Justin Clouse of Spokane, Washington, and Pfc. Aaron Toppen of Hazel Crest, Illinois, both of whom died in combat June 10, 2014. (U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. John Etheridge) #
A U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Pfc Aaron S. Toppen, of Mokena, Illinois, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on June 12, 2014. (USAF/Greg L. Davis) #
U.S. Army soldiers carry a transfer case carrying the remains of Pfc. Aaron S. Toppen, of Mokena, Illinois, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) #
Airman First Class Travis Beebe secures the door of a transfer vehicle carrying the remains of Cpl. Justin R. Clouse, Spc. Justin R. Helton, and Pvt. Aaron S. Toppen as they are carried away in a transfer vehicle during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base on June 12, 2014. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) #
Amy Toppen (2nd from Left) holds her mother Pamela Toppen as they walk alongside the aircraft carrying the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen, their brother and son, after its arrival at Midway Airport on June 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Toppen, 19, was killed alongside four other American Soldiers and an Afghan soldier in a friendly fire airstrike during a firefight earlier this month in Afghanistan. The remains were being returned for burial in his hometown of Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Supporters pay their respects as the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen arrive at Midway Airport on June 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A member of the flight crew pays his respects to Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen after his remains were taken off an aircraft at Midway Airport where they were returned to his family for burial on June 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Soldiers carry the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen past family members to a hearse after they arrived at Midway Airport on a charter aircraft from Dover Air Force Base on June 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
An Army honor guard places the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen into a hearse at Midway Airport on June 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Pamela Toppen (right) gets a hug from her mother Betty Winter after the remains of her son Pfc. Aaron Toppen were loaded into a hearse on June 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A Patriot Guard Rider waits to escort the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen home from Midway Airport on June 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Supporters wait for a procession carrying the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen to arrive at the funeral home on June 21, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A sign outside the Mokena Fire Department expresses condolences at the loss of a local soldier, U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen, on June 22, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Supporters watch as the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen arrive at the funeral home on June 21, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Residents pay their respects to U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Supporters watch as the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen are carried into the funeral home on June 21, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A VFW honor guard stands at attention as the remains of Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen are carried into the funeral home on June 21, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
U.S. Army Sgt. Brant Sharp waits outside a chapel at Vandenberg Funeral Home as family members spend a quiet moment with the remains of Pfc. Aaron Toppen on June 22, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. Sharp, who is stationed with Toppen, is assigned to escort his remains until he is buried on Tuesday. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Dan Wilson (left) and funeral director Ed Hickey carry the uniform of Pfc. Aaron Toppen, which will be displayed next to the closed casket during a visitation service at Parkview Christian Church on June 23, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Jackie Rozek spends a quiet moment with the remains of her long-time boyfriend, U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen in a chapel at Vandenberg Funeral Home on June 22, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
On June 23, 2014, Pamela Toppen stands next to the uniform of her son, U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen, while she greets mourners during a visitation at Parkview Christian Church in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A Patriot Guard Rider prepares to present a flag to the family of U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen during a visitation at Parkview Christian Church on June 23, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A veteran pays his respects to U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen during a visitation at Parkview Christian Church on June 23, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Jackie Rozek fights back tears after she is presented with a flag by members of the Patriot Guard Rider to honor her boyfriend, U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen during a visitation at Parkview Christian Church on June 23, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn pays his respects to U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen during a visitation at Parkview Christian Church on June 23, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A caisson carrying the remains of U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen arrives at St. John's Cemetery on June 24, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Friends attend a graveside service for U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen at St. John's cemetery on June 24, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
A yellow ribbon adorns a tree near the grave of U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen during a graveside service at St. John's Cemetery on June 24, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Soldiers participate in a graveside service for U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen at St. John's Cemetery in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Snow presents a flag to Pamela Toppen, the mother of Pfc. Aaron Toppen, during a graveside service at St. John's Cemetery on June 24, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #
Pamela Toppen says goodbye to her son, U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen, at St. John's Cemetery on June 24, 2014 in Mokena, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #

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