In an awesome display of patriotism, hundreds of residents lined the 1.5 mile final stretch in Marine Corporal Kevin Reinhard's funeral procession from St. Agnes Church in Clark to St. Gertrude's Cemetery in Colonia.
Despite the bitter 30 degree weather, schoolchildren came out from their classrooms and residents from their homes to line Inman Ave and pay respect to the fallen soldier.
As the long line of cars drove past, the crowds stood still and silent, most with right hands over their hearts or in a firm salute and flags in their left.
Reinhard, 25, was among six who died last week in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. He was a lifelong Colonia resident and had almost completed his second tour of duty when he was killed.
"I want to say goodbye," said one little boy who stood close to his father, who held a bigger flag, his face tight with respect in anticipation of Reinhard's casket passing by.
Some of the bystanders had come prepared for a fight. Members of the infamous Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church had claimed they would be protesting the funeral, holding up signs declaring Reinhard's death in Afghanistan as a sign of God's judgment on America. The deaths of soldiers oversees, they believe, is because various states in the country have legalized gay marriage.
And yet, the day was one of solidarity and patriotism, with not a protester in sight. Among the supporters were nearly 100 motorcyclists organized by the Patriot Guard, a riders club that attends funerals of soldiers, firefighters and police, but only after being invited by family members.
Patriot Guard member Donald Klein, who led the efforts for Reinhard's services, had little to say about the Westboro threat. "I don't deal with them," Klein told Patch. "To me they're nonexistent. They claim they're going to every single military funeral and they never show up."
Klein says he comes to funerals with the Patriot Guard because his son is in the service and he feels it's his way of giving back.
Others had the same idea: Two veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom never met Reinhard, but travelled from Union Township to Colonia to pay their respects for a fellow soldier. Matt Zeiser was a Petty Officer in the Seabees. His high school friend, Danny Rodriguez, became a Marine sergeant.
"I'm here to pay homage to a fellow brother in arms," Zeiser said. Both men stood on Inman Ave., ignoring the cold, and waited patiently to bid adieu to a fellow veteran of a 21st century war.
The procession included police cars with flashing lights, and the phalanx of motorcyclists riding in solidarity with the sacrifice of Reinhard to American freedom.
"It's so painful, but it's what we should be doing for this man who paid the ultimate price," said Karen Braun, who had travelled from South Jersey to pay tribute to the fallen hero.