BERLIN HEIGHTS, Ohio — There was an overwhelming display of support Wednesday for the Northern Ohio sailor who lost his life overseas.
People came out in droves to welcome Berlin Heights native Maxton Soviak home after his body was flown back to Cleveland Tuesday morning.
Soviak was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan late last month. Those soldiers were all killed in a bombing attack at the airport in Kabul during the United States' chaotic withdrawal from the country.
Everyone who knew Soviak during his 22 years on Earth remembers him as a man who loved fiercely and remained loyal, strong, and independent to the end.
Soviak was a proud Navy corpsman who was just 22 years old when he lost his life on a heroic mission — evacuating Americans and our allies from Afghanistan before the Taliban took control.
“Proud, proud to be here. It's the least I can do,” said one resident who attended Soviak’s procession.
Those who knew him said Soviak made friends all over the world, and even those who'd never met this young hero came out to pay their respects as his remains were brought back home.
Another resident said they were there “just to be supportive, really, and be here and show that we care really about our troops and stuff.”
Wednesday’s homecoming was emotional for everyone involved, with fire departments driving out to raise American flags over the route, and parents teaching their children what true sacrifice looks like.
Another resident said they came out “just to show them how we support a community and be here for Americans all over the place.”
Soviak's death hit this tight-knit community hard, with a huge turnout at a memorial last month, and even more support from across all of Northeast Ohio Wednesday.
Soviak’s sister has described him as a man who would walk into a room and make you feel like you were one of his. He carried that welcoming spirit to his football career, which started at age seven and ended after he helped lead his high school team to the final four playoffs junior year and became captain as a senior.
Everyone who turned out Wednesday no doubt felt a sense of honor to be a part of the procession, and responsibility to pay tribute to Soviak.
“This is what we do to support our military, our soldiers, men and women, and certainly all of our veterans,” said one resident. “We really appreciate the men and women who give with their lives on the line.”
Soviak is survived by his parents, 12 siblings, and a long list of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.