Thousands of people gathered along Southern New Hampshire roadsides Saturday morning to honor a local Marine killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, as his body was returned home for burial.
The procession carrying Lance Corporal Brandon Garabrant from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to a Peterborough funeral home included family, fellow Marines, State Police, at least 100 motorcyclists, and firefighters from Peterborough, Temple, Mason, and Brookline, said George Clark, chief of the Temple Volunteer Fire Department, where Garabrant volunteered.
“It was totally unbelievable, the amount of people that were on the side of the road honoring him,” said Clark, a family friend, in a phone interview Saturday. “When we turned onto 101 in Milford, there was one Marine standing there by himself . . . and it was just like, wow, it really hit you.”
Garabrant, 19, of Greenfield, N.H., was killed June 20 with two other US troops and a service dog in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, according to state and local officials.
Clark said the return of the teen’s body brought some comfort.
“It’s good that he’s at least back in New Hampshire where he belongs, and it was a huge honor to be involved in the events today,” he said.
Clark estimated that at least 100 supporters gathered near the crossing of Routes 45 and 101 outside Peterborough, where he said ladder trucks from the Peterborough and Milford fire departments held a large US flag above the roadway.
At a memorial service scheduled next Saturday, Clark said he expected at least 3,000 family, friends, firefighters, and others moved by Garabrant’s sacrifice.
Clark has been speaking regularly with Garabrant’s mother, he said, and the family is receiving a great deal of support.
“They’re doing very well, given the situation,” he said. “They have a lot of friends and family that are there and helping them with what they need. . . . There is tons of support around them.”
Still, he said, the loss of such a young man has been difficult for many in the community.
“Nobody deserves it, but I think it hits home even harder at that age,” he said. “Being so young and he just graduated high school last year, and had such an unbelievable life ahead of him and the things he could have accomplished.”
Calling hours are 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday at ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough, where Garabrant graduated last year. The memorial service will also be at the high school at 10 a.m. Saturday, with burial in the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org