BOSCAWEN - Thousands of Granite Staters put on a display of love, honor and respect Saturday for a man most had never heard of a month ago.
It was not a big surprise that about 2,000 people watched at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery as tearful family members lay bright red roses on Lance Cpl. Brandon Garabrant's silver casket before it was lowered into a grave amid early-afternoon sunshine. But Garabrant's friends and family weren't expecting the large outpouring from people who stood along the route taken by mourners from the funeral in Peterborough to the cemetery in Boscawen.
At almost every bridge and overpass, there were people respectfully applauding as the procession of cars and motorcycles accompanying Garabrant's hearse went by. Many of those on the roads were members of local fire and police departments and veterans, and at many bridges, there were local firetrucks displaying banners praising the Marine, who was one of three killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on June 20.
The roads around Concord were congested as a long trail of vehicles passed through. Near the cemetery's entrance, a mother and her two children stood holding signs saying "God Bless Brandon."
The turnout may have said as much about New Hampshire residents as it did about Garabrant, several family friends said.
"Granite Staters are a hearty people, they take care of each other," said Pastor Brent M. Charles, a child evangelism fellowship minister from Charlestown, who led the mourners in prayer at the gravesite.
Family members watched as Marines carried the coffin from the hearse to the gravesite.
Some onlookers not familiar with military graveside services appeared touched when two Marines removed the American flag draped over the coffin and folded it with slow care and precision. Once folded, the flag was presented to the family. Several Marines also handed prefolded flags to family members, a few of whom clutched the cloth to their chests as the ceremony came to a close.
"When you get to this point, the military makes sure not to rush anything, to get things right," said Stewart Ross, 82, of Peterborough, a Korean War veteran and friend of the family who was in the procession between towns.
"This was a very special man, and a lot of people know that, apparently," said Jim Sharrock, a friend of the family who led the ceremony in Boscawen.
Before the coffin was lowered into the ground, several family members were led away by Marines, who were in full dress uniform. Then, a few other people walked up to the coffin to pay their final respects.
"We've come to pay tribute to a young man who was a hero all of his life," Charles said in leading the gathering in prayer. firstname.lastname@example.org