GIRARD - The hearse carrying the casket of Marine Cpl. Richard Bennett proceeded through a garden of American flags on its way to the Girard Cemetery Thursday.
It was one of the many tributes offered to Bennett as he was laid to rest.
Bennett, a 1999 Girard High School graduate, was killed after the Cobra helicopter he was in crashed into the Al Habbaniyah Lake, 30 miles west of Baghdad, on Saturday, May 27.
During the services, Bennett was remembered as a man who loved serving his country and loved his job as a helicopter mechanic in the Marine Corps.
He also was remembered as a man who found spirituality.
Pastor Bill Cox said that when Bennett left for training, he took his Bible with him. But Bennett left it behind when he was deployed with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 16th Marine Air Group, HMLA 169 to Iraq. Shortly after he arrived in the Middle East, he asked his mother to send his Bible to him.
"He called his mother at 5:30 in the morning and was excited that a package had arrived from home and it contained that Bible," Cox, of the First Baptist Church in Nevada, Mo., said. "That was a week before he was killed."
Cox described Bennett's life, mentioning that he had been a member of the Boy Scouts and the National Honor Society. Bennett graduated from Pittsburg State University with a degree in auto mechanics in 2002 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on May 10, 2004.
Cox also reflected on the love Bennett had for his family, and the special bond he had with his nephew Matt. So special, in fact, that a picture of Rick and Matt was included in his memorial program, handed out to those at the service.
"Matt was born on May 16, and Rick arranged to have an American flag flown over the base that Matt's family lived at on his birthday," Cox said.
Bennett's dog, called one of his best friends during the service, was laid to rest beside him. In a strange twist of fate, the dog died the Friday before Bennett's accident.
Many groups were involved in saying goodbye to Bennett, including the Patriot Guard and the U.S. Marine Crops Mobilization Command.
Before the service began on Thursday, around 300 members of the Patriot Guard lined Forest Street across from St. Michael's Catholic Hall, where services took place, holding American flags overhead. The Guard held that position to shield friends and family from eight protesters.
"We just came here to support the family ... that is the main thing," said Travis McCauley, a member of the Pittsburg American Legion Post No. 64 Patriot Guard riders.
As his casket was brought into St. Michael's Catholic Hall by members of the U.S. Marine Corps Mobilization Command from Kansas City, Mo., onlookers stood in slience.
From the service, his casket was taken to the Girard City Cemetery for burial.
After the casket was at Bennett's gravesite, the Patriot Guard circled the area where Bennett's grave is located with American flags.
Members of the Mobilization Command presented a 21-gun salute that visibly rattled members of the crowd, then a member of the Command played Taps.
Emotions were at their peak when three F/A-18 Hornet fighters from Texas flew over Bennett's casket in the 'Missing Man' formation.
"My family is very blessed with all of the support that we have received from family, friends and strangers," Jaylene Brown, Bennett's cousin from Owasso, Okla., said. "The military ... just everyone ... has been there from the beginning showing their support."