Rome community turns out to welcome home fallen soldier Blair Thompson

By GARY LIBERATORE

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - Hundreds gathered outside of Hanger Bay 6 at Griffiss International Airport Friday afternoon to honor the family of U.S. Army Specialist Blair Thompson.

Thompson was killed in Afghanistan a week ago when his unit was ambushed. Thompson's parents and many other family members and friends were seated separately just inside the hanger as they watched the private chartered jet arrive just after noon.

One of those who turned out on Friday, Sharon Ackerman of Rome, whose two teenage sons want to serve their country when they are old enough, "As a parent, no I would never want to imagine this, it's surreal, you don't want to bring your children home this way."

Over the past week, since his death, the parents of Army Specialist Blair Thompson have spoken elegantly of how proud they are of their son, and on this day, it was others' chance to do the same. Retired U.S. Marine Michael Mills of Rome says it's important to the family to show their support, "the Marines come out for the Army, the Army comes out for the Marines, the Air Force, everybody's there. What uniform you wore, we're all there for the same reason."

Also in the crowd, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Mercedes Armstrong, a fellow Rome Free Academy graduate and friend of Blair Thompson's who just got back from Afghanistan herself. She is home for 18 days and will once again be heading back to Afghanistan after her leave. Ackerman says she understands how hard it is for parents like Blair's, who sometimes do not receive a phone call for weeks, "there's a period of time when I didn't get to talk to my parents at all, because communications went down. When we're doing secret missions you can't talk to anybody at all."

Blair's parents last heard Blair's voice a couple of weeks before Father's Day.

Thompson had deployed to Afghanistan in May. He was serving with the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team.

Calling hours will be held on Saturday, July 3rd from 2:00pm until 8:00pm at Barry Funeral Home on Chestnut Street in Rome.

Funeral Services are on Sunday, July 4th at 2:00pm at St. Peter's Church on N. James Street in Rome.

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