Undaunted by a passing storm, more than 100 people turned out on Brandon Boulevard on Thursday morning, Oct. 13, to pay their respects to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ivan Lechowich, a local soldier who died last month in Afghanistan.
A passing shower disguised their tears but it couldn’t hide the respect and pride they felt as the body of the young soldier passed.
“This is the least we can do for our military who are fighting for us,” said Pam Hill as she waited in the rain for the Fallen Hero Escort. “Our military is defending us from terrorism over there so it doesn’t come here,” said Hill, whose nephew is serving in Afghanistan.
Lechowich, who worked with a specialized team charged with clearing improvised explosive devices (IED) from roads in Afghanistan, when his vehicle drove over a bomb.
"He was doing the hardest thing in the hardest place, and wouldn't have had it any other way," said Lechowich's father, Rick, at the family's home in Bloomingdale.
“We are all just Americans today,” said Annette Catrett. “Our soldiers are special. Every time I see one I thank them for what they do. If it were not for them we would have terrorists coming on our soil. We need to honor them.”
Catrett’s daughter, Sheri, brought both her children — Katelyn, 5, and Jonathan, 7 — with her as she stood at the corner of Brandon Boulevard and Kings Avenue.
“It’s important to me to show my children what’s happening here today. I want them to see our patriotism and support of the troops,” said Catrett, whose cousin was recently deployed to Afghanistan.
Seven-year-old Jonathan Catrett, who stood quietly in the rain with an American flag, knew why he was there.
“We are here to honor them because they died for us,” he said.
Admiration and respect brought Jasper Jones out in the rain Thursday morning.
“These soldiers are doing stuff I couldn’t do. This young man has paid the ultimate price to allow us to have freedom here. I want to pay my respects to him today,” said Jones, who has three sons-in-law serving in the military.
“Whether you support the war or not it’s important to show support for our military,” said Theresa Ellis as she stood with a large flag on Kings Avenue. “This young soldier had just become a dad for the first time only a few days before he died. It’s just heartbreaking.”
See the of the military who have died in the Afghan and Iraqi wars.