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Aug. 9–SWANTON, Ohio — Dozens of people turned out Thursday at a roadside near Toledo Express Airport to honor a fallen soldier.
They watched silently as a motorcade carrying the casket with the body of the 20-year-old soldier roared down Airport Highway. Scores of bikers rode at the head and the tail of the motorcade, displaying the American flag. Honor guards at the roadside near the Swanton Township Hall presented arms. Law enforcement officers saluted.
The body of Army Pfc. Brandon Kreischer was being taken from the airport to his home town of Bryan via Swanton, Burlington, West Unity, and Pulaski, where more people were waiting.
“It could be any of our kids,” Bill Cook, 58, a retired American Red Cross fundraiser from Swanton, said as he waited for the motorcade.
“I came here because this is the least we could do to pay our respects to him and his family,” he said, adding that his high-school-age daughter is thinking about going into the Air Force and that he would be proud and supportive of her if she did.
Said his wife Sheila, who was with him: “I feel so bad for his family. That’s what keeps going through my head.”
Howard Yunker, 72, of Swan Creek Township, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, stood nearby, watching the road for the motorcade.
“I just want to pay my respects to the private first class. He had a rough time. And his family had a rough time … I am here to support them,” the retired road construction manager said, adding that he is supportive of young people going into the military.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “It helps them grow up … And they earn more respect for the country.”
Just up the road, Roger Schlade, 76, also an Army veteran of the Vietnam War era, and his wife Ruth, both of Swanton Township, were among a few people who sat on a small hilltop to better see the motorcade.
“My sincere ‘thank you’ to the family of Private Kreischer, for his service, and for the way he honored his country,” Mr. Schlade said.
Ruth Schlade said she also wanted to honor the fallen soldier, “who went to Afghanistan, trying to improve his life and help the country.”
“I give him credit for his bravery, because it is not something everyone can do. But it needs to be done and it’s appreciated,” she said, adding that she has a grandson who has just graduated from the Naval Academy and is waiting for his first assignment.
Robert Hawkins, 69, also of Swanton Township and an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, climbed on the bed of a pickup truck to have a better view of the road.
“I am here to honor this gentleman for serving my country and because he is part of my military family,” the retired plumber said, adding that “It’s just sad we have to see our gentlemen go that way.”
Asked whether he had a message to Private Kreischer’s family, he said: “We Americans are very proud of you and to be part of our military family.”
While procession organizers urged spectators to gather in any of several towns along the route, rural residents like Tim Schaffner of Fulton County’s Pike Township paid their respects in the countryside.
“This fella’s a hero. He’s from northwest Ohio and he gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr. Schaffner said while waiting with his wife, Deb, and six other relatives at county roads 13 and H near their home.
“He gave his life for his country so we could enjoy the freedoms we have,” he said.
Private Kreischer was shot and killed in an insider attack July 29 at a base in the Shah Wali Kot district, 100 miles north of Kandahar. U.S. officials told the Associated Press that a rogue Afghan soldier had shot and killed two American service members. The other one was 24-year-old Spec. Michael Isaiah Nance of Chicago
Private Kreischer’s body was returned July 31 to the United States, according to the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. He was stationed there before deploying to Afghanistan a month ago.
“If I die in the combat zone for America, I do not call it a tragedy,” Private Kreischer wrote two years ago. “I call it glory.”
The Pentagon says the incident is still under investigation.
A Bryan High School Class of 2018 graduate, Private Kreischer leaves behind his wife, Grace, and their son Callum who is expected in December.
Private Kreischer’s military honors include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Army Service Ribbon.
Services for Private Kreischer will be held in the Bryan High School Gymnasium, 1000 Fountain Grove Dr., Bryan, with visitation from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday and funeral services beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Graveside services will be private.
Staff writer David Patch contributed to this report. ___
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