Flags were flown at half-staff across Minnesota on Wednesday in honor of Lance Corporal Dale Means, a 23-year-old Marine from New Prague who was killed in Afghanistan.
Means was working as a gunner in a convoy when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the southern Helmand province on Nov. 18.
A funeral was held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Saint Patrick's Church of Cedar Lake in Jordan, Minn. Thousands of people lined the street to pay tribute, and the funeral route was lined with hundreds of American flags. They stretched as far as the eye could see down Main Street and into rural Scott County.
There were 1,800 flags in all, and even total strangers came to honor Means for his sacrifice.
"I don't know the family, but he fought for us," said Bonnie Valek. "That's why we say our thanks for him."
Every single flag was donated as a gift from an Illinois man who heard about the funeral and drove more than 300 miles to attend.
"I went to a soldier's funeral, and there was probably pretty close to about 2,000 people there and only about 50 to 100 flags," Larry Eckhardt explained. "I didn't think that was right."
Next, the local radio station sent out a call for volunteers to deliver a salute of 23,000 stripes and 90,000 stars.
"I volunteered, and they had well over 100 on the snap of a finger," Valek told FOX 9 News.
Means joined the Marines after he graduated from New Prague High School in 2007 and the Dakota County Technical Institute. He then married his wife, Andrea, in October and was on his first tour of duty after being deployed in July.
The funeral was held at the church in St. Patrick where he was married, and he was buried with full military honors in the church cemetery, just steps from the chapel.