Stars and stripes lined the streets in Meridian, Quitman and between. Supporters waved their American flags or stood with hands over their hearts as the funeral procession for Specialist Terry Gordon made its way home. Gordon died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in mid-December. And visitors from across Mississippi came to honor the remarkable man he was.
"Christ said in John 15:13, 'Greater love hath no man than he than give his life for another,' and everything that we know about Specialist Gordon tells us that he truly loved his country and is indeed an American hero," Congressman Gregg Harper says.
Gordon's funeral was held in Quitman High School, where he graduated. The deputy commanding general over specialist Gordon's brigade says this is a tough loss for the Big Red One family, but is thankful for all those in this area who helped shape him into the hero he was.
"He was the ideal soldier: brave, responsible, on point for our nation. The Edwards family, the Gordon family and this community did a phenomenal job of raising that brave responsible and on-point soldier," Brig. Gen. Sean Swindell says.
And the community didn't miss an opportunity to show its respects.
"Our respect is more important than anything else," Quitman Mayor Eddie Fulton says. "And for this family coming through to see all of their fellow citizens of the county and the city of Quitman and all the little towns and villages in our county, to see the heart-rendering support, and I'm proud of them."
Mayor Fulton says a loss like this provokes understanding in anyone. Whether friend, family or stranger, everyone feels the pain and pride.
"It feels good in a way to honor a fellow military member, a brother," says bystander Joseph Broderick. "But it's also heart-breaking to see a young man lost his life. But he did it for our country."
"Her uncle and my husband's only brother got killed in Vietnam in 1969, and I know what an impact it had on the family all these years. We just thought it was important to show our respect, and we know what the family's going through," says bystander Annette James.
Adjutant General of the Mississippi National Guard Augustus Collins says with this loss, there comes the gain of insight to all those who hear of Specialist Terry Gordon.
"It's a lesson for all of us that freedom is not free. And Specialist Gordon, while serving his country in Afghanistan, gave his life so that all of us would have an opportunity to live, work and play in a free society," he says.
Gordon was buried in Campbell Cemetery in Pachuta.