Supporters waved flags and rode motorcycles while giving U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Chris Hamlin a hero’s welcome Friday evening.

Hamlin, the 24-year-old son of Autumn Hamlin, of London, and Ronnie Veach, of Saxton, was killed May 4 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Just after 5:30 p.m. Friday, a plane from Dover Air Force Base carrying the body of the Laurel County native, landed at the London-Corbin Airport. An honor guard from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which is stationed at Fort Campbell, carried the flag-draped coffin from the plane to a waiting hearse. Lining the way were members of the Patriot Guard Riders holding large American flags.

Kentucky State Police and London Police then provided an escort from the airport to London Funeral Home where Hamlin’s body was scheduled for visitation. The Patriot Guard Riders on their motorcycles were also part of the escort.

A London Deli and Sub, employees and patrons watched in silence.

Darrell Gentry, co-owner of the restaurant, said he is old enough to remember the welcome soldiers received when they returned from Vietnam. Although sad about Hamlin’s death, he was proud that so many people were willing to honor him.

Larry Corum, secretary/ treasurer of the London-Corbin Airport Board, was at the terminal when the ceremony was happening.

“Its wonderful to see the respect given to our fallen soldiers,” Corum said.

Back at the funeral home, Debora Nichols, of the Blue Star Mothers of the Bluegrass, waited patiently for the procession to arrive.

“Our hearts are with the family right now,” said Nichols, whose son Joshua is in Iraq. Her other son, David, is at Fort Campbell.

Nichols drove to London from Frankfort to give Hamlin’s parents and grandmother a gold star banner.

“It signifies the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. “It’s an honor for me to be able to present it to them.”

Samantha McGinty of London also waited at the funeral home. Her husband, William McGinty, is a petty officer third class in the Navy. Owner of a 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan, he rode with the Patriot Guard Riders “out of respect.”

“I think it’s good,” Samantha McGinty said. “He knows what it’s like to be deployed.”

Phil Roberts, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, drove from Frankfort to honor Hamlin.

“You don’t know how much members of the military sacrifice unless you have a family member serving,” he said. “They sacrifice a lot.”

Visitation began at 7 p.m. at the funeral home’s chapel. Services were conducted at 1 p.m. Saturday, with Bro. Terry Arthur officiating. Burial followed at Potter’s Cemetery.

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