The small town community helped the family bury Staff Sgt. Shannon Weaver who had been on his second tour in Iraq when killed by a roadside bomb.
The 28 year old grew up around Esom Hill and Borden Springs, Ala., neighboring communities on the state line.
Polk County residents, the Patriot Guard Riders and other motorcyclists, Army widows and many more gathered inside and out of the funeral home to show respect, give honor and extend compassion to the family.
At the funeral service, a letter from Weavers commanding officer was read by Brig. Gen. Randy Strong. It shared with the grieving family and friends what a true hero Weaver really was. A true warrior, a true combat engineer, a remarkable man.
Weaver was physically, mentally and spiritually strong, the letter read. The commanding officer said that he depended on Weavers guidance and advice.
As a combat engineer, Weavers commanding officer, Matthew Johnson said that his niche was maintenance. He could fix anything and sometimes without anything to fix it with, the comments in the letter stated.
Comments of the letter explained some details of his last mission.
Weaver and his squad had headed out on a route clearance mission, a task he had performed many times before. The combat engineer and his squad were to disarm the roadside bombs so that convoys could safely pass through the area.
A deeply buried improvised explosive device (IED) near a canal bridge blew up the 65 ton Buffalo vehicle that Weaver was traveling in.
Two other soldiers died along with Weaver. Two are seriously injured.
The commanding officer also described Weaver as strong in the Lord. Weaver always led his squad in prayer before every mission.
He always prayed, Lord protect those who are going, protect those who are staying and those already out there.
Weavers widow, Desiree, also shared a letter she had received from a medic that was at the scene. Heartfelt last words and painful images expressed the medics grief in not being able to save the men.
Mr. Charles Heyman whose son, Derrick, served with Weaver and is still in Iraq read a letter from his son to the group. Derrick was traveling in a vehicle behind Weaver when the accident occurred.
The close friend described Weaver, he had a big body, big voice and big heart. He was the platoon go to guy, Heymans son stated.
I will forever cherish those memories, Heyman said as he conveyed stories of when he and Weaver had spent time with each others families. Heyman, too, shared the prayer Weaver would pray before each mission.
Weaver was described by other testimony as a guy who always thought of others first. He made sure the other men in his squad got to go home on leave before he did.
Weaver made it possible for one fellow soldier that was killed in the same explosion to get home for the recent birth of his baby. The widow of Brian Daniel Ardron was present for Weavers funeral and to support Desiree. She thanked Desiree for Shannons compassion. My husband got to see our baby and be home for the birth thanks to Shannon.
Ardron buried her husband the day before, Saturday, June 2, in Ballground. His father and stepmother, Brian and Betty, attended Weavers funeral.
Dr. Robert Wright, Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Esom
Hill, reminded the gathering, Freedom isnt cheap. Its bought with a price and maintained with a struggle. He remembered Weavers baptism and assured the family that their loved one was now home in heaven where he said, There is no hostile force.
At the graveside, few words were spoken. Words werent needed to express emotions there. The faces of those gathered tearful and sorrow-filled conveyed what wasnt said.
The haunting sound of bagpipes carried out over the cemetery, spreading into surrounding pastureland and finally coming to rest in the hills of the countryside. The 21-gun salute echoed sharply and then, the first few notes of Taps. Low at first, then full and strong.
The American flag that draped Weavers casket was removed and folded, then handed, along with his dogtags, to Desiree by Brig. Gen. Strong.
Chip Oehring, Georgia Ride Captain from the Patriot Guard Riders, presented Desiree with a plaque.
Asked later what the plaque read, Oehring simply stated: Its to let her know that we appreciate her husbands sacrifice and to honor him as the hero he was, and still is.
(Cedartown Standard Editor Aimee L. Harmison contributed to this report.)