BERLIN HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) – Northeast Ohio honored the service and sacrifice of a local hero as he made his final homecoming Wednesday.
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton Soviak was one of 13 service men and women killed when a bomb exploded at the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan on August 26.
He was there working in support of operation Allies Refuge, helping to evacuate American citizens and Afghans who worked alongside U.S. Service personnel and diplomats over the past 20 years when the United States maintained a presence in that country.
Soviak’s body was flown into Cleveland about 10:30 a.m., after which there was a private procession from the airport west on the Ohio Turnpike to the route 250 exit.
From there, the procession was joined by representatives of various public service agencies and by veterans organizations. Motorcycle escorts for the procession traveled south along Route 250 to Route 113 east into Milan.
It continued past Edison High School, where Soviak graduated in 2017, then left on Berlin Road, continuing to the Morman-Hinman-Tanner funeral home in Berlin Heights where the procession will conclude.
Thousands lined the route in honor of Soviak and his service.
They include Melanie Young of Toledo who had six relatives serving in Iraq.
“They have hearts, they have families, they have children, they have parents, they have brothers and sisters and grandparents that are worried about them as much as they are worried about us and they are there to make sure of the freedoms that we have,” said Young.
“He’s one of our own. He played football with our grandson and just an awesome human being, especially when you start reading everything about him… and being a navy mom, I feel for the mom right now. That’s the hardest part for me is just her. I know what she’s going through,” said Lori Lewis of Milan, a Navy mother who also plans to be among those along the route.
Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth, the father of a young U.S. Marine himself, will be helping coordinate the route along the procession.
“I think it’s vitally important to honor and respect all members of the military, especially Corpsman Soviak and all of those who died with him in this attack at the airport,” said Sigsworth. “Sometimes, maybe we forget about all of the sacrifices that all of our military members current and past make every single day and I think its really important that we never forget that and we never forget the sacrifices that they make so we can be safe and our country can be safe.”
Public safety vehicles that will be in the procession will be staging at the Certain Teed Corporation on U.S. Route 250.
Veteran Service Organizations with motorcycle escort units are asked to stage at the commercial vehicle transfer lot at the Route 250 (exit 118) toll booths.
While the general public is invited to line the procession route, Sheriff Sigsworth says they will not be able to join the procession itself.
While Edison High School will be in session on Wednesday, students, teachers and faculty will be excused to join those gathered outside the school to pay respect as the procession passes.
“I would like to see anybody who hasn’t served, especially the young people, realize what it costs or can cost to serve and what it takes to keep this country as free as it is,” said U.S. Army Veteran Stanley Nickoli.