Private Aaron Toppen of southwest suburban Mokena died in what could be one of the worst friendly fire accidents of the 14-year-old war.
The 19-year-old army private, deployed in March, was one of five US soldiers killed in a coalition air strike in southern Afghanistan.
Neighbor Larry Bettenhausen, a veteran of the Vietnam war, says he watched Aaron grow up and become a great man.
“I’ve known the Toppens for years. They’re good people and Aaron was a good boy and he was excited about going into the military,” he said.
This Memorial Day, a tribute to local soldiers in the Mokena paper prominently featured wishes for Aaron.
Today, his older sister Amanda posted on Facebook, “My brother lost his life doing what he always wanted to do since he was a little boy. He’s my biggest hero and the bravest man I know.”
Military representatives briefed the family earlier today about the circumstances of that possible friendly fire incident. The family did not want to talk about it for now, as the investigation continues.