ELDORA, Iowa -- The return of football can make fans feel whole again, but it was one South Hardin graduate, Cody Haley, who couldn't return that remained on their hearts, minds, and helmets.
"I just can't say enough about this community and everything. It is just heartwarming," said Elaine Manship of Eldora.
Lance Corporal Cody Haley, a 2015 South Hardin graduate and U.S. Marine, was killed on August 4th during a workout when a tree fell on him at Camp Pendleton in California.
"When we found out, it was extremely devastating but we here to celebrate his life," said Cody's fellow Marine John Scilwell.
In fact, around fifty Marines who served with the Eldora native didn't think twice about flying across the country to cheer loud and proud in his place Friday night.
"Everybody was ready to drop everything," said Scilwell.
Fans in attendance for the Tigers week 0 game vs. Iowa Falls-Alden left their Tiger black and red at home to wear red, white, and blue for Cody. Catie Leytham, who recently graduated from South Hardin but went to school with Cody, said, "It makes my hear melt. To see everybody supporting Cody, it makes my heart melt."
Cody's younger brother Colton gave fans deja vu by wearing Cody's #10 jersey. It is an honor he'll continue all season.
Leytham said, "It proves how close they were. It's like he's back on the field again."
As the South Hardin fans roared for another score, on this night their pride burst for a man whose life may have been cut short but whose sworn duty continued to keep all Americans free.
Scilwell said, "Haley was proud to be a mortar man and it's a tight bond that we take very personally."