(FOX 9) - Marine Corporal Eric-John Niss de Jesus, of Mountain Lake, was honored with a processional through southern Minnesota Thursday.
According to Minnesota State Rep. Jeremy Munson, of Lake Crystal, Niss de Jesus died last week in Okinawa, Japan in an ocean swimming tragedy.
The 24-year-old was a University of Minnesota graduate before he enlisted in the Marines.
He arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Thursday afternoon. The Marines and Patriot Guard left the airport and traveled south on Hwy. 169 through the towns of Eden Prairie, Shakopee, Jordan, Belle Plaine, Le Sueur, St. Peter, Mankato, Lake Crystal, Madelia, St. James, and Butterfield before finishing in Mountain Lake early Thursday evening.
Hundreds of Minnesotans gathered on overpasses and along the highway to pay their respects as the procession including his family and the Patriot Guard accompanied his body from Twin Cities International Airport to his hometown of Mountain Lake.
"I was in the Air Force a while back and it's nice to bring back different service members who lost their lives overseas," said Jim Cox. "It was just as powerful as I remember."
It was a similar scene and sentiment a few miles down the road in Shakopee. "I saw some posting on social media about this," one man told us. "I think it's just a small part to come out and support our troops to let them know we care and appreciate their service."
Where people who didn't even know Niss de Jesus felt the loss like a death in the family.
"If he was my son, I would want him to be honored," added Jeff Benson. "That mom has to drive all this way and she sees all these people and people who don't even know him are out paying honor."
During the journey to his final resting place, the overwhelming emotion brought many to tears but they say it was a fitting tribute to a native son who finally came home.