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Shary Barnes and family members receive a flag casing personalized with Barnes' awards.
LORAIN -- Many knew him -- hundreds more did not -- but they came to pay their respects yesterday and say goodbye to Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes, a casualty of the war in Iraq. Barnes, 20, was laid to rest yesterday. He was killed earlier this month when his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Lorain resident and Vietnam veteran Ernie Lloyd took the day off work to pay homage to Barnes. Lloyd was one of hundreds who lined Oberlin Avenue from Meister to Cooper Foster Park roads yesterday to pay their respects to Barnes and show his family their hearts are with them.
Lloyd held a large American flag and saluted as the hearse -- surrounded by motorcycles -- drove past.
''I knew Eric from the time he was a young kid,'' Lloyd said. ''He was one of the best. ... He was just a good kid.''
Young and old waited patiently, some for hours, for the funeral procession to travel from Barnes' alma mater, Admiral King High School, to Elmwood Cemetery.
American flags -- some planted in the ground, others held by observers -- waved in the breeze. A large flag hung from the extended bucket of a Lorain Fire Department truck.
The crowd was peacefully quiet as the hearse carrying Barnes' body passed by. Some saluted. Others just watched as the long procession made its way to the cemetery.
CenturyTel trucks lined the southern end of Oberlin Avenue in support of Barnes' father, Tom, who has worked for the company for many years.
An American flag was displayed in the raised bucket of each truck. Tom Barnes' truck, parked at the end of the line, also had a flag depicting the U.S. Air Force emblem.
Construction Supervisor Don Rosso, Construction Coordinator Huey Kirk, Field Engineer Steve Walend and Install and Repair Supervisor Jim Parker planned the tribute to Barnes.
''We asked our employees, 'What can we do to show support?''' said Rosso, who has worked with Tom Barnes since 1978. ''This is total support for Tom.''
With tears in his eyes, Lorain resident Bob Weir took photos of the procession as it passed him.
A Barnes family neighbor, Weir spoke to Tom Barnes on Tuesday. Despite the recent tragedy, his demeanor remained pleasant, Weir said.
''Just talking to his dad and hearing the enthusiasm in his dad's voice as he talked about his son,'' Weir said, pausing, ''not once did his voice quiver.''
Though many who line the road did not know Eric Barnes personally, they needed to be there.
''I just feel a sense of pride, and that I should do this,'' Lorain resident Linda Ganobcik said. Her husband is a U.S. Navy veteran and her father-in-law is a World War II veteran.
''Normally, I work on Wednesday,'' she said, ''but I had this day off, and that was a sign that I had to be here.''
South Amherst resident Kasey King added, ''I'm pretty choked up about it, I'd say, to see young men giving their lives over there. It's just nice to see all these people coming together and showing that they care.''
The procession ended at Elmwood Cemetery, where a group of family and friends overflowed from under a small bright blue tent while an honor guard stood at attention.
Others people quietly watched from a distance, holding small American flags in their hands. Birds chirped from nearby trees. Not a single cloud hung in the sky.
An Air Force honor guard from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base gave a three-volley salute, the loud shots echoing throughout the otherwise peaceful cemetery.
The mournful notes of ''Taps,'' played by a lone bugler, pierced the air.
A group of bagpipers played ''Amazing Grace'' as an Air Force representative presented the American flag to Barnes' family, thanking the family for their sacrifice.
Morning Journal Writer Kate Giammarise contributed to this story. ©The Morning Journal 2007
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