Procession for soldier killed in training accident leaves Cleveland airport

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CONNEAUT, Ohio-- A somber homecoming is planned in Conneaut tonight as the community prepares to say goodbye to a fallen soldier.

"He sacrificed his life for serving our country and that's what Conneaut does the community comes together to support our own," said Lori Riley, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent.

Flags were lowered to half staff at Conneaut schools in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Cole Walker, who was one of three people killed in a training accident in Georgia last week.

The sergeant's remains were flown to Northeast Ohio and will be escorted by local law enforcement, including the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office, to Conneaut late Tuesday night. According to the sheriff, this loss is personal. The sergeant's father-in law works within the sheriff's office.

The community decorated Main Street with flags and ribbons in honor of Sgt. Walker's service and plan to line the street to welcome his family home.

The sergeant's widow, Taylor Walker, released the following statement:

"As Sgt. Thomas Cole Walker's wife, it is an honor to bring him back to our hometown of Conneaut, Ohio.

"I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks for the amount of love and support I have received from family, friends, and the entire Conneaut community.

"Words cannot express my sorrow at this time.

"The upcoming events will be an honor for me to be at Cole's side remembering and honoring a great husband and soldier."

"Sgt. Walker was a Conneaut High School football player, captain of his team in 2016 very proud to be a Spartan player," Riley said.

The sergeant's former high school football coach remembers him as a man other students admired and respected.

"Just great leader. If he saw a kid getting bullied, he was the first one to step in and make sure it didn't happen," said football coach Rocco Dobran.

Because of the late start of the procession, Riley said district classes will be delayed two hours Wednesday morning to allow students and staff to attend the somber farewell.

The city of Mentor is reminding people to not stop along roadways and bridges to witness the procession because it creates unsafe conditions. Instead, people should gather along Main Street between Harbor and Mills streets in Conneaut.

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