The body of a fallen Coronado-based U.S. sailor killed in combat last week was returned to San Diego Friday morning.
A procession for Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan made its way from the San Diego International Airport to Merkley-Mitchell Mortuary on 5th Avenue in Hillcrest. Those wishing to pay tribute to the fallen 34-year-old sailor were asked to line the streets along Harbor Drive, Laurel Street and 5th Avenue.
Locals paying their respects included Melissa Cruz, who said she felt compelled to give thanks to the sailor for making the ultimate sacrifice.
"Even though we're in a huge veteran and military community, I don't think they get as much props as they deserve," Cruz told NBC 7. "It's great the local community is highlighting everything he put into his service."
"It's really sad, especially coming from a military background," said San Diego resident Alli Reyes, also out to pay her respects to Finan Friday. "My dad is in the military and if that ever happened to me -- honestly, I feel like I have a connection."
"Honestly, I'm proud of him and of everything he has done for us," Reyes added.
Linda Barnes, who's father and grandfather had both served in the Navy, said it is difficult to understand what a family goes through in tragedies such as this one.
"You can't even begin to understand what his mother must be going through. The loss, the devastation, it just doesn't leave you," Barnes said. She also lost a son, who was not a servicemember.
"I respect our country and what our servicemen are doing and it's just very, very tragic that so many men are dying," she added.
U.S. servicemembers who attended the procession told NBC 7 that the support from the public is very meaningful.
"Our sailors, soldiers, airmen, marines and coast guards serve--they serve the country honorably every single day," said U.S. Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg. "To have local citizens come out and share that respect, it means so much."
Finan was killed near Ba'shiqah, Iraq on Oct. 20 after suffering injuries from an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, according to U.S. Navy officials.
He was the first U.S. service member to die in combat since the launch of a massive operation to free the city of Mosul from ISIS.
A family friend told NBC 7 a private funeral will be held for the fallen hero. The U.S. Navy said that private memorial service for Finan's loved ones is happening Nov. 1 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado.
Following the service, there will be a 12:15 p.m. procession from the church to Miramar National Cemetery for the private burial of Finan. The public is invited to pay their respects to Finan along this procession route which will head west on 6th Street towards North Island, right on Alameda, right on 4th Street and continue east to the bridge.
Earlier this week, the City of Coronado ordered flags in front of municipal buildings to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Finan. The flags will remain at half-staff until his Nov. 1 funeral.
Officials with the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command said Finan served 13 years on active duty – entering the U.S. Navy on Aug. 26, 2003.
During his career, Finan received 18 awards, including Navy Marine Corps Commendation with Combat V, Army Commendation Medal and two Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medals, to name a few.
He was qualified in master explosive ordnance disposal, official said, and was an expeditionary warfare specialist, naval parachutist, enlisted surface warfare specialist and a diver.
Finan lived with his family in Imperial Beach. He is survived by his wife and 7-year old son. Read more here about how to help the fallen service member's family.