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Northeast Indiana residents turned out en masse Sunday to honor the service and memory of Berne native Spc. Nick Taylor, who was killed two weeks earlier while serving with the Indiana National Guard in Afghanistan.
Taylor's body returned to Indiana soil sometime after noon on Sunday, arriving at the 122nd Fighter Wing base adjacent to the Fort Wayne International Airport. Following a private ceremony on the air base, Taylor's body then made the 32-mile trip home.
And he was not alone on that journey.
Beginning at the entrance to the air base and continuing all the way to Berne, well-wishers carrying flags and signs were stationed at intersections along Ferguson Road in Fort Wayne and the length of U.S. 27 to greet and salute the hearse as it rolled past.
Residents from Poe to Poneto and all points in between, many of whom did not know Taylor and had little or no connection to Berne, nonetheless gathered on a hot Sunday afternoon to say thank you. The streets of Decatur were lined with well-wishers, as was Taylor's home town of Berne.
Members of the Berne Police Department and Indiana State Police accompanied Taylor's body on its ride home. So, too, did 788 motorcyclists, representing the Patriot Guard and the American Legion Riders. The procession stretched for some 20 miles, start to finish.
Some 2,200 American flags were planted in Berne by approximately 100 volunteers on Saturday, working with "flag man" Larry Eckhardt of Illinois.
Taylor's viewing is being held today at South Adams High School from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and from 2-8 p.m. Funeral services will be held starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the school. Doors will open at 10 a.m.
Taylor's casket will be taken from the school to M.R.E. cemetery by a horse-draw carriage following the services.
Spc. Taylor and Spc. Sergio Eduardo Perez Jr. of Crown Point died in a July 16 attack in Kandahar province. They were members of a bomb-clearing unit from the Valparaiso-based 713th Engineer Company.