An account of the funeral of a soldier and hero

Published 10:14 am Thursday, July 29, 2010

I am still riding high from Tuesday although my legs and back are sore and my bad ankle feels like bone rubbing on bone.

We got to the high school in Coal Grove at about 9 or 9:15 a.m.

Someone put a request in the online newspaper asking for people to come and make a line so that, in case the Phelps group tried to protest, they couldn’t get too close to the family.

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Anyway, when we got there it was my friend, Jean Holt and me, and four or five other ladies with flags and kids. Just as we were all getting upset that not many had showed up, people started arriving.

The Patriot Guard riders had been gathering at the Family Dollar parking lot for a couple of hours prior and some had gone to the house to escort the family cars to the funeral home and then to the high school.

The school flags were at half mast and there were black ribbons and small American flags on the telephone poles and at other places. The hearse arrived escorted by the riders and the family cars behind them, and we were all standing so straight. I raised my hand as one of the first funeral cars went by and a woman in the front seat smiled and waved at me, a tiny little wave.

I thought my heart would break.

I didn’t have a flag to hold, so some people from the VFW gave me and Jean one. The service lasted about an hour and a half, and everyone stayed right where they were for the most part.

It was very hot and I had on my Soldiers Angels long sleeved black shirt. Jean had her short sleeved Angel tee on and the bikers, of course, were in black.

The people who went to the actual service inside the school, were parked everywhere you could park. The funeral home ran out of funeral flags to put on the cars.

There were police there: State police, sheriff’s and it looked like representatives from all the military services. It was one of the most memorable things I have ever been involved in.

When the family came out and the cars started heading for the cemetery, it was the Patriot Guard bikes in front, the hearse, the family and friends’ cars and more Patriot Guard, then cops and sheriffs, etc.

Most of us stood there until the last car had left the parking lot. Someone started singing “God Bless America” from down at the corner across from the school.

Fortunately, the Phelps group did not come for the funeral, but they had been seen around town here and there, and I don’t know if they tried to go to the cemetery or not.

There were enough bikers to keep them away — maybe 100 or so.

RIP, Justin. I am proud to have been able to stand vigil for you and your family.

Christina Sharik