The hearse containing the body of Marine Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton travels in procession along Third Avenue in Albany to Crown Hill Cemetery for interment following funeral services at First Baptist Church in Leesburg on Wednesday.
ALBANY, Ga. — Area citizens turned out in force Wednesday to pay respects to Lance Cpl. Steve "Big Steve" Sutton, who lost his life in Afghanistan.
As the funeral motorcade, led by seemingly countless motorcycles of the Patriotic Guard Riders, traveled south on Slappey Boulevard on its way toward Crown Hill Cemetery, American flags were extended to honor the fallen Marine.
Many of those lining the streets were military veterans. Others were friends of the family. Some of those who turned out had no connection to the Sutton family.
When asked why they turned out, the answers varied, but the theme was to say "thank you" to Sutton and his family.
"To show my respect and support for the family," said Teresa Griffin. "The men and women who serve this country sacrifice greatly. When a soldier gives his all and falls in battle like Steve did, he gives himself but his family and friends give him and they need our love and support also."
Linda Rainey says she believes it's nothing less than everyone's patriotic duty to appear and show respect.
"I just think that all of as Americans should come out and pay our patriotic duties to the families and to the solder himself for giving his life," she said. "If it weren't for them we wouldn't be America today. They truly make our world. They keep us safe so we can go on with our lives, so we need to support the families in any way we can to show our true colors and how well we respect him."
Frances Lindsey worked for years at Proctor and Gamble with Gene Sutton, Cpl. Sutton's father.
"I'm here to show support for this family and not just this family but all American men and women who are willing to pay the ultimate price," Lindsey said.
Mary Jordan said she came to honor all the fallen.
"I heard his name, Big Steve," Jordon said, "and it kind of touched me a little bit because my brother was a Marine in the Vietnam war and he passed almost two years ago. It was confirmed that it was Agent Orange and I get emotional when I see stuff happen like that. I just want to honor the young man, being a Marine and being in our area.
"I feel for his family because I have grandchildren (Sutton's wife's) age and I've got sons and I had a daughter who served in Iraq. She got bombed in Iraq, but she's here and I just feel for the soldiers and for Big Steve."
Joseph Bertolucci is Vietnam era vet who respects anyone who serves.
"I came to pay respects to a man who died for our country, died for our freedom," Bertolucci said. "I lost a high school friend in Vietnam. I would pay respects for anyone who died for our country."
"As a believer and as a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and then as a civilian Marine, how could I not be here?" asks Erica Savage. "I was thinking at work today that I am able to leave work and pay tribute to someone and this family has to actually suffer the loss of someone who won't be returning home. It's absolutely my pleasure and my honor to be here today."
"I'm here in memory and in honor of Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton," Kitras Thomas said. "I mean, I think its one of the greatest things that we as people can do, when we have people who fight for our rights and our freedoms and our way of life. The least we can do is just come and give the families just a little of what they requested of us, to stand at the side of the road like we're doing today and just hold our flags together."
Mark Van Zant came "to show our respect to the U.S. Marine Corps and show respect to the family and friends of the man who died."
"I'm a Vietnam returnee," said Willie Ross. "I did a career in the Marine Corps. I'm 100 percent disabled and God blessed me to be back. I'm sorry that Lance Cpl. Sutton didn't make it back and so many others, but anything that's got to do with veterans or the war, period, I'll always be there, because we have to sacrifice our lives. That Agent Orange ate my heart up but I'm all right."
Dave Schlegel is a retired Marine and two-time recipient of the Purple Heart, but is hesitant to talk about his experiences.
"Respect," Schlegel said, "That's why I'm here, for a fallen Marine, a comrade. It ain't red, white, blue, pink, black — it's man to man. It's a fallen Marine and everybody needs to show respect to every service person that has lost their lives in these conflicts."