May 23, 2006

"I'm proud of this town."

Though I moved from Seaford to northern Delaware when I was a small child, I still have family connections in the area. Still, it makes me proud to have some roots in a small town that knows how to honor its fallen heroes.

Delaware Online: Supporters flock to Marine's funeral

SEAFORD -- More than 1,000 people -- including hundreds of motorcyclists who call themselves Patriot Guard Riders -- quietly created a corridor of American flags outside St. John's United Methodist Church on Sunday to support the family of a fallen Marine.

Four hundred people packed the church while another 100 watched a live video feed at a nearby fire hall and hundreds of others simply stood outside, but their numbers were belied by a dignified quiet that marked the funeral of Cpl. Cory Palmer. The 21-year-old Seaford High School graduate died May 6 of injuries suffered when his Humvee was hit by an explosive near Fallujah on May 1.

In hushed tones, supporters sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and recited the Lord's Prayer as Palmer's family and friends solemnly entered the church for the 3 p.m. funeral. Wind chimes sounded; flags flapped.

Dozens of servicemen -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine -- wore dress uniforms as they paid their respects.

"I'm thankful everyone came out to support Cory," said one of them, Marine Cpl. Evan Rogers, 22, who attended first and second grade with Palmer.

Described by friends as "fun-loving" and "full of energy," a guy who "always had a gleam in his eye," Palmer already had served a 7-month tour in Iraq. He had been back at war for five weeks when he was injured.

"I know his parents and his grandparents and his great-grandparents," said Bill Bennett, whose family owns Harley-Davidson of Seaford. He expected a big crowd. "It's a well-known and well-liked family."

Outside the church, Carol Guilbert, a senior citizen from Bridgeville, stood quietly with her husband to support Palmer's family, with whom she attends church. She opposes U.S. involvement in Iraq.

"This has nothing to do with your feelings about the war," said Guilbert, whose husband is a World War II veteran. "We're very supportive of the family."

Looking around at the hundreds of quiet, respectful mourners, many of whom held American flags, and still more of whom didn't know Palmer personally but wanted to honor the fallen Marine, she said, "I'm proud of this town."

Motorcyclist and Vietnam veteran John O'Neill, of the American Legion Riders, had to walk five blocks from where he and his companions parked their bikes. Suffering from fibromyalgia, the Dagsboro resident must use two canes to walk, but he willingly covered the distance to honor Palmer.

"A war hero comes back home, his family has a right to respect," he said.

Palmer's cousin, Ellen Palmer, held back tears as she walked from the funeral toward home. Cushioned by distance and the large number of supporters, she never saw any of the protesters who had gathered in town.

"I was expecting support, but I was expecting, you know, 25 or 50 people," she said. "They were still there cheering as we walked out of the church."

May God bless you and your family, Cpl. Palmer.

Semper fi.

UPDATE: Another reason why I am proud of my old hometown: Angry residents confront anti-gay protesters

[The Phelps] [d]emonstrators taunted the crowd by stepping on American flags and shouting insults, separated from onlookers by a waist-high barrier and dozens of police officers. The park is out of sight and earshot of St. John's United Methodist Church where the funeral was held.

"Carry your sorry asses back to Kansas!" one man shouted to the demonstrators from across the street. People driving cars and trucks -- many waving American flags -- drew cheers from onlookers as they passed, drowning out the demonstrators.

"Get out of our county," Amanda Elzey, 18, of Salisbury, Md., shouted. Elzey's pink T-shirt read: "God Hates No One."

The group received a permit from the city to demonstrate in the park at Market and High streets from 2:15 to 3 p.m. At 3 p.m., police formed a perimeter around them and escorted them onto a waiting van. The crowd pressed forward, throwing rocks and bottles and breaking at least one of the van's windows, Seaford police Capt. Gary Flood said.

"We knew we were going to have to get [the demonstrators] out of there," said Flood, visibly drained by 5 p.m. "Things were getting a little heated."

The demonstrators "got out of town" immediately, he said.

Police arrested three adults -- all from the crowd -- taking them to the Seaford jail, according to Flood. He couldn't immediately provide details.

Despite the arrests, Flood said he believed the city residents showed "good restraint."

Posted by Kyer at May 23, 2006 11:31 AM | TrackBack