FORT MYERS, Fla.- The remains of Marine Cpl. Thomas “Tommy” Jardas were returned to his family in Fort Myers Friday.
The 22-year-old was killed in January along with 11 others in a helicopter crash during a training exercise off the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The Marine Corps recovered the wreckage last week, along with the remains of nine people.
Friday, an American flag was draped over the casket of the Marine when it arrived at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). Fellow service members stood by and saluted the fallen hero.
Jardis’ mother placed her hand on her son’s casket and kissed it. The family embraced each other on the tarmac as Jardas was placed inside the hearse.
Local law enforcement agencies and residents lined the procession route from RSW to the Hodges-Kiser Funeral Home
“I don’t even know him but I’m very proud of him,” said Christine Pitser. “I thank the family and I think of them.”
“We want to honor Tommy today and all of the marines who are serving,” said Brett Margaron.
With American flags in hand, dozens stood by to watch the motorcade travel from through Treeline Avenue and Daniels Parkway.
“I am happy his remains are being brought home to his family, I mean it closes the chapter being lost at sea,” said Army veteran Freddie Santiago.
“There is no words for it you know,” added veteran Greg Moore. “All we can do is be there and comfort them and show our support and that in itself just means the world to the family.”
“I’m so proud of Southwest Florida, we had some citizens stand with us, it’s a great feeling,” said William Lombardo, South Trail Fire Department chief. “It really is a great feeling to see the support for such an important event.”
Firefighters also stood along the procession route in full uniform to honor Jardas.
“It’s a terrible event and the least we can do is when somebody makes the ultimate sacrifice is just to say ‘thank you for your service’ and this is the best way we know how to do that,” Lombardo said.