A rifle, boots and helmet are seen tied to a motorcycle at Crown Hill Cemetery. Numerous other motorcyclists participated in the procession carrying military gear and displaying flags to honor Sutton.
ALBANY, Ga. — Marine Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton was laid to rest Wednesday as thousands of Southwest Georgians lined the cortege route from First Baptist Church of Leesburg to the gates of Crown Hill Cemetery.
Sutton, 24, who joined the Marines in 2009 and was attached to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division, was killed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan during combat operations over the Memorial Day weekend.
"We know death is the end, but I assure those of us who believe in our savior Jesus Christ will indeed walk through the Valley of Death," First Baptist Pastor Bobby Harrell said during the eulogy at Crown Hill. "Death is the enemy but through faith in Christ we conquer death. You will visit this site many times in the future, and each time all you need to do is look up.
"On the way here today, we saw a lot of love for this family."
The day began in Leesburg at 11 a.m. as more than 240 Patriot Guard Riders filled two parking lots and formed a flag line as the gray hearse delivered Sutton's body to the church. The services were closed to all but family and close friends.
In the meantime, crowds were gathering along U.S. Highway 19 and Dawson Road to say goodbye to the fallen Marine.
South of Leesburg, around the Publix Shopping Center, crowds gathered en masse, ahead of the 2 p.m. funeral service.
People came with their families and friends and even a Little League team gathered together with their parents and coaches along the processional route. Two Marines in dress blues stood along side the crowd.
When the intersection of Forrester Drive and U.S. Highway 19 was closed down, hundreds, if not thousands, of people spilled into the northbound lanes of the highway and along the side of the southbound lanes waiting for a glimpse of a fallen hero.
"I just wanted to say thank you for his service and and for paying the ultimate sacrifice for our country," said Karen Kavanaugh, as she stood along the route waiting for the processional to arrive. "And I wanted to support the Sutton family in this difficult time."
The procession approached the area and silence fell over the crowd. Everyone watched as the mile-long group of police cars and veterans groups on motorcycles moved slowly along the route.
As the hearse approached, tears welled in the eyes of some members of the public, gratefulness appeared on some faces, while veterans and those currently serving stood at attention.
Scenes like this could be seen up and down the route from Leesburg to Crown Hill Cemetery in Albany.
Along Dawson Road, City of Albany Water, Gas and Light boom trucks were set up in the turning lane with American flags draped from the buckets.
As the entourage turned into the cemetery, it was led by more than 30 law enforcement vehicles from Lee County and the Marine Corps Logistics base.
Casey Dixon contributed to this report.