MADILL, OK--Hundreds lined up along Hwy 70 and the streets of Madill this afternoon to see their hometown hero escorted back home. Flags waved high in the air as the body of 27-year-old Second Lieutenant "Joe Lee Cunningham" arrived in Ardmore around 1:45.
Cunningham's close friend from high school Samantha Murphy came back home from Oklahoma City to honor and remember her good friend. She says losing Cunningham just doesn't seem real.
"It was hard. I didn't believe it at first I was shocked, but coming home made it a little more real," Murphy said.
Murphy says Cunningham was always around, making her laugh.
She says he was someone who you could always count on, and the memories she shared with him are countless. Murphy says he loved a lot of things, and there a lot of things to love about him.
"He loved Sooner football, he loved the military, he loved being around his friends, he was a good person, he had a big heart," Murphy said.
Cunningham's best friend and former roommate Jeff Jordan says it's been a very difficult time for the family, so upsetting that they've asked Jordan to speak on their behalf.
He says the support they saw coming back home brought them to tears.
"The family and the town is just really relieved to have him here, and that means lot. And all the support the community showed today was just outstanding," Jordan said.
Jordan says he could go on and on about Cunningham. He says he was a good man, a great leader, and that Oklahoma lost one of it's best. Though friends wished for Cunningham's homecoming to be much different, him back alive and well. Jordan says everyone who came to show respect today, and how they came together meant a lot.
"It made me ball I'll tell the truth, you know? Joe's dream was always to be a highway patrolman, and he got brought home in style," Jordan said.
Cunningham will be laid to rest in his hometown of Kingston after a service at First Baptist Church in Madill at 11:00 Saturday morning.