By Jessica Wade, Steve Liewer, Jeffery Robb
Cpl. Daegan Page received the kind of welcome home no warrior’s family wants — the kind with black limousines and flag-draped caskets, slow salutes and tears.
But on Friday afternoon, thousands of Nebraskans and Iowans made Page’s mournful homecoming an occasion to remember.
Holding flags and signs saying “God Bless You, Cpl. Daegan Page” and “Welcome Home,” they lined streets from Eppley Airfield to southwest Omaha to watch the passage of a vehicle carrying the remains of the Marine to Braman Mortuary.
Few of them would have known the name of the 23-year-old Millard South High School graduate before his death Aug. 26 — along with 12 other U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghans — in a terrorist bombing at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
But for one day, at least, Daegan Page felt like everyone’s son or brother.
Tim Hullett, a 43-year-old Omahan, cut short a fishing trip to come home and pay tribute, holding up a Marine Corps flag at the corner of 10th and Cass Streets. His own son, Dakota, is a Marine about the same age as Page.
“This could be anybody’s son,” he said.
Page’s homecoming represented a convergence of tragedies. His death came in the final days of America’s War in Afghanistan, while the return of his body to Omaha occurred one day before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that launched the U.S. into that war.
Page’s casket arrived at Eppley from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware about 1:20 p.m. and was transferred from the aircraft to a hearse out of public view. His family followed in several black SUVs as the procession — escorted by Omaha motorcycle police — traversed the city.
In a statement via email, Page’s family said they were touched by the warm tribute.
“Omaha, you never looked better,” they said. “It was an amazing honor to bring Daegan home to the open arms of his hometown today.
“We wish we could have stopped and thanked every person who took time out of their day to pay their respects,” the family added. “We saw you all.”
America is a Great Country in which to live.