GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The body of an Air Force staff sergeant killed in a train accident in Germany last week returned home Monday.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Weems, 24, was killed after he was struck by a train on a bicycle at an unguarded railroad crossing near the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He was wearing headphones at the time.
Weems was a member of the 86th Maintenance Squadron. He graduated from Byron Center High School in 2005.
With his period of enlistment over, Weems was only a few days from exiting the Air Force and returning home. His flight back to the United States was booked for Monday and his personal effects were already shipped.
A motorcade procession carrying Weems's body entered Byron Center Monday evening on 84th Street and proceeded to Cook Funeral Home.
The streets were filled along 84th Street route to honor Weems.
While many didn't know him personally, everyone felt some connection to him.
"I have a son that was discharged because of medical reasons and a family friend -- real close -- that's in the Army," said Donna Tipton, who lined the route. "This could have been one of our own."
People young and old, civilian and military stood at attention, waiting for the motorcade to arrive.
"He is one of our fallen comrades and I need to be out here to show support because he is one of our own," said Army National Guard Officer Candidate Peter Nagengast.
"To see the uniforms out there supporting the members and their families when they're going through a difficult time means a lot to them." said Air National Guard Master Sgt. William Baldry.
As his flag-draped casket made its way to the funeral home, reality hit home for those who knew him well.
Peter Woudwik said he was best friends with Weems since the 6th grade and played football with him at Byron Center High School.
"He meant everything to a lot of us," said Woudwik.
He said he was in shock when he heard of Weems's tragic death just days from returning home for good.
"I was looking forward to it," said Woudwik. "We were planning vacations in the summer time and it was devastating news."
-- Read "How loud is too loud?" on headphones and train accidents --
Visitation will be held at Cook Funeral Home at 2067 84th Street in Byron Center on Wednesday and Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Funeral services will be Friday, May 25 at Cornerstone Church 1675 84th SE, Caledonia, at 11 a.m. Information available at 616.698.3170.
Weems leaves behind siblings Amanda Elliott, Lindsey Weems and Tyler Weems; parents Jim and Betsy Weems; and fiancee Angela Mamelka.
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