Shortly after writing my post, yesterday, I took a drive up to see the flags that were placed in honor of of a local Marine that died while stationed in Germany. He was only 19 years old. Here is a picture of 9 of the 2300 flags that were placed along the streets where his casket would take him to his final resting place. Miles of flags, and I was only able to capture a glimpse of what they actually looked like.
I shared, yesterday, how a certain hate group had posted their plans on protesting the funeral. I, along with many locals and non-locals, pledged via Facebook that we would rally together to form a Human Wall around the funeral to keep them at bay.
Thankfully, they never showed up. And while standing in the streets with complete strangers discussing the disgusting group and their antics, I shared my point of view that had the group not even mentioned the funeral - I, along with hundreds that lined the streets - wouldn't have been there either.
I was met with a lot of shocked faces. I was not condoning their actions. I was not condoning their hate or their threats to protest. I was merely stating that in the sight of evil, we banded together to show good. Not just good... but love to a total stranger...honor and respect.
So, we all want to thank the nasty group for at least putting our small town on their radar. They accomplished one thing and one thing only with their threat... to bring a small town together to honor one of their own, to show how we care for one another, and that regardless of it they were to show up or not...they would have had these sights to take back with them...
And my photos don't do near as much justice as they could.
I just captured a glimpse of the number of people that lined up in honor.
We stood for almost two hours before the service started. We watched family members arrive, and break down in tears over the sight they witnessed getting out of their cars. We saw Marines arrive and salute the bikers, the flags, and the strangers that lined up in their honor. We watched cars drive by with drivers with complete awe in their eyes at what they drove by.
And, as the casket was brought from the church and put in to the hearse.... you could have heard a pin drop among the crowd.
Once the casket and family were ready, the biker procession started. Bike after bike after bike after bike drove off down the street. If I had to guess, I'd say there were over 100 bikers starting the funeral procession down our Main Street. There may have been many more, as I noticed bikers were joining the procession from streets further down.
A lump formed in my throat. Tears welled up in my eyes. My heart hurt for a family I'd never met, a young Marine I'd never seen before.
This was what community is all about. I got to witness it and participate in it first hand.
It sure is a great feeling knowing that this is the town we live in, the town where my children will grow up. Even though my kids won't attend the local school, or participate in local sports and events... I am proud and honored to know that we will be members of this community for years and years to come.
Rest In Peace Cpl. Ben Tuttle.
Even though you were taken from this earth too soon, your town loves you. We thank you for your service. And we thank you for bringing our community together in your name.