By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A fallen Minnesota Marine returned home Saturday to a community that honored his sacrifice.

Hundreds gathered to pay their respects to Cpl. Caleb Erickson and remembered a life taken too soon.

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“Our youngest is seven he said … ‘what if I start crying?’ … They understand the effect this is having, you know, on everybody,” said Waseca resident Krystal Godtland.

Twenty-year-old Erickson was killed one week ago when a suicide bomber hit his convoy, according to his family.

The procession stretched four miles long for the Marine corporal. News of his death has captured the attention and the hearts of many.

“It’s awesome to have all the support. It just doesn’t hit home just in the community, it’s a statewide family thing,” said Crystal Lake resident Shannon Sorenson.

Erickson was just two months away from returning home from Afghanistan when he was killed by a suicide bomber on Feb. 28.

Those who knew him remember his compassion and his infectious smile.

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“He had a smile that was would be unmatched by anyone and it was always present on his face,” said Waseca High School principal Jeanne Swanson.

“It’s just a tough time for everybody and we just ask for prayer,” said Erickson’s aunt, Marla Ulrich.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking when I heard the news and it didn’t really hit me until I came in and saw all the people standing and waitin’ for Caleb to come home,” Sorenson said.

There will be a visitation Sunday at Grace Lutheran Church in Waseca from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The funeral is Monday at 10:30 a.m. at Grace Lutheran. Erickson will be buried at Woodville Cemetery.

Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered all state flags to be flown at half-staff on Monday in his honor.

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The Waseca community will keep their porch lights on until Erickson is laid to rest.

Kate Raddatz