HOULTON, Maine — Before Dan Halverson of Caribou left his house to go to Houlton on Monday morning, he called his father, an infirm Korean War veteran, and asked if he wanted him to bring anything back.
His father knew that Halverson was heading to Houlton to help honor Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Henderson, 33, a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who died in Afghanistan last week and whose body was returned to Aroostook on Monday. Halverson’s father asked him to stop by his house on the way out of town.
“When I got there, my father, who lives on a fixed income, handed me a $10 bill,” Halverson, his voice choking with emotion, said Monday. “And he said, ‘Stop into a store and buy some flags to hand out to the kids along the street, so they can help welcome him home properly.’”
And so that is what Halverson did. After handing out the flags, he joined hundreds of others who stood along a route that stretched through Houlton and Hodgdon, watching silently as the hearse carrying Henderson’s body passed by.
A motorcade containing family members, vehicles from several branches of law enforcement, firetrucks from multiple towns, motorcyclists from veterans organizations, and more vehicles organized at the Houlton International Airport. The procession, led by the hearse, then weaved through many local streets in Hodgdon and Houlton in an effort to drive by places that meant something to Henderson.
The motorcade passed parks where Henderson played as a child, the church where he worshiped, the gymnasiums where he shot hoops, and the family home on White Settlement Road in Hodgdon before ending at Bowers Funeral Home in Houlton.
Henderson died Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan from wounds suffered in an improvised explosives device attack on Sept. 30 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
He was a 1997 graduate of Hodgdon High School, joining the Army three years later. He was a Special Forces communications sergeant in a company headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky. This was his fourth deployment in support of combat operations.
Henderson completed three deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom before his most recent deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He earned numerous awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal. He has a large family and extended family in the Houlton and Hodgdon areas.
His funeral will be held Wednesday. Visitation begins at noon in the gymnasium at Houlton High School. The funeral, with the Rev. Randall Burns officiating, follows at 2 p.m. Interment with full military honors will be at East Hodgdon Cemetery.
Local schools will be dismissing students early so they can attend the services.
Kim McDonald, who grew up in southern Maine but moved to Houlton a few years ago, said she did not know Henderson, but was proud to bring her two children out Monday to “watch a hero come home.”
“I think that it is best to teach your children when they are young how you are supposed to treat our nation’s veterans,” she said. “I want them to know that this is what you do. You attend ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. You fly the flag. You say thank you. I am proud to see all of the people here today. He deserves it.”