Three funeral homes, three cemeteries, three families, two communities, two law enforcement agencies, several churches, and thousands of patriotic citizens across the Midlands and the Upstate were kept busy last week preparing to honor three beloved native sons.
On June 28, 2012, a Kalitta Charters jet touched down at Eagle Aviation in West Columbia. The plane bore home the remains of Sgt. John David "JD" Meador II, 36, of Columbia, and First Lt. Ryan Davis Rawl, 30, of Lexington.
Meador and Rawl, together with Sgt. First Class Matthew Bradford "Brad" Thomas, 30, of Easley, South Carolina, were killed in Khost Province, Afghanistan, on June 20, 2012, after coming under attack by a suicide bomber and accompanying small arms fire.
All three men were members of the South Carolina Army National Guard and were attached to the 133rd Military Police Company out of Timmonsville, a unit that deployed last fall.
The entire unit was scheduled to be home by September, 2012.
As the week drew to a close, through overwhelming shock and grief their wives, children, parents, siblings, relatives, and friends were joined by countless South Carolina citizens who were on hand not only to mourn, but to pay grateful respects to fallen American heroes of the highest caliber.
Thousands lined streets and roads throughout the Midlands on Saturday for the funeral and burial processions of Ryan Rawl and JD Meador. On Sunday, the scene was repeated in the Upstate for the funeral and interment of Brad Thomas.
Lt. Rawl's family were served by the Barr-Price Funeral Home at 609 Northwood Road in Lexington. On Friday evening, June 29th, many hundreds waited hours to express condolences at the visitation.
The funeral took place on Saturday morning, June 30th, at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church. A horse-drawn caisson bore Lt. Rawl one mile from the funeral home to the church. An honor guard and his family walked behind as scores of mourners looked on.
He was interred with full military honors at Mt. Hermon Baptist Church Cemetery in Pelion.
Visitation for Sgt. Meador's family also took place on Friday evening, at Caughman-Harman Funeral Home, St. Andrews Chapel. As with Lt. Rawl, hundreds were on hand to pay their respects.
JD Meador's funeral was also held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, at Seacoast Church on St. Andrews Road. Hundreds more lined the road leading to the church, waving flags, saluting, and placing hands over their hearts on what would be the hottest day in recorded history for Columbia.
He was interred with full military honors at Fort Jackson National Cemetery, where his headstone was placed the same day.
Robinson Funeral Home in Easley served the Thomas family.
It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves under the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, and who gives the protestor the right to burn the flag.
Origin Unknown. Quoted at the funeral of 1st Lt. Ryan Davis Rawl.
Jennifer Weber is the owner of Angel Funeral Photography. When she's not preoccupied with taking pictures in cemeteries, she blogs relentlessly at I'm Having A Thought Here and A Route of Evanescence. She is a frequent contributor to Find A Grave, where she is known as AngelSeeker.