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Bulloch hero comes home
Community pays tribute to fallen soldier from Portal
071509 SOLDIER HONORED 15 web
Citizens line U.S. Highway 301 to honor fallen National Guard Sgt. Brock Chavers as his body is escorted from Statesboro-Bulloch Regional Airport Wednesday.

Watch the Studio Statesboro video segment of Sgt. Chavers' return home. Click on link:

    Hundreds of people stood in the midday sun Wednesday, waiting along U.S. 301  North to pay respects to fallen National Guard soldier Sgt. Brock Henry Chavers Sr.,  who lost his life in Afghanistan last week when a bomb exploded near his Humvee.
    People began lining up around noon, some holding flags, others dressed in patriotic red, white and blue clothing, waiting for the plane to land at Statesboro-Bulloch County Municipal Airport to deliver Chavers' body home to his family.
    At the airport, a crowd waited, including several members of the Georgia Patriot Guard, a motorcycle group dedicated to participation in such memorial escorts for soldiers killed in the line of duty.
     Two fire trucks with ladders extended held a large American flag over the drive into the airport, providing a moving patriotic touch as people passed underneath. As Chaver's family arrived, they were escorted by law enforcement to the terminal, where they awaited the plane's arrival.
    The charter plane carrying Chaver's body touched down around 1 p.m, slightly later than predicted. As it taxied to the terminal, Georgia Patriot Guard members formed  a single file on  the tarmac, along with Georgia State Patrol troopers, Bulloch County Sheriff's deputies, and Statesboro, Portal and Register Police officers.
            During the 15 minutes it took to remove Chavers' casket from the plane, onlookers observed a respectful silence. After the casket was finally removed, members of Chavers' family were escorted to the flag-draped coffin.
            The family gathered together and each  took a turn touching the casket. Members of the honor guard then picked up Chavers' casket and walked it to the waiting hearse.
            Groups of people were clustered around the airport entrance, and were scattered along the route, waiting to show respect and support for the Chavers family as the procession rolled past. Leaving from the airport, the escort was led by a Statesboro Police officer on motorcycle, followed by patrol cars from various law enforcement agencies.
            Trucks and cars from Bulloch County Public Safety, Statesboro Fire Department and various Bulloch County volunteer fire departments, Bulloch County Correctional Institute, Bulloch County EMS and other agencies followed behind the hearse and a black limousine carrying Chavers' immediate family. Other family members also followed in private vehicles.
            There were also representatives of  the Georgia National Guard in the line.
        Emotions ranged from sadness to patriotism as the procession rolled past people saluting, waving flags or holding their hands over  their hearts.
            Luree Bowen, who has connections with Portal, Chavers' home town, stood by awaiting the procession. She said Chavers will be honored Oct. 3 at the town's Catface Country Turpentine Festival, and said a tree will be planted in his honor, accompanied by a plaque, in the town's Centennial Park.
            Earnestine Burns said she was there to pay respects to Chavers as well as represent her brother, National Guard Sgt. Bobby Burns, who served with and  was friends with Chavers and remains in Afghanistan.
            "I know my brother would be here if he could," she said. "I wanted to come out an recognize the family. It's hot but I  think it's worth it."
            As people waited for the procession to pass, they fanned themselves and some made runs to a nearby convenience store for cold drinks. Some had the foresight to bring umbrellas or sunshades.
            Leo Parrish held flags in preparation for his show of appreciation, saying he was drawn to the gathering " to show respect for what this young man gave to his country."
            His wife Marti Parrish said their attendance was also " to support his family in this sad time, and support our entire Armed Forces in the fight for freedom around the world."
            J. D. Dunn said he is retired military and served during the Vietnam era. He noted the vast difference between Wednesday's turnout and how bodies coming home from Vietnam were treated.
            "This is such a different experience," he said. Back about 40 years ago when fallen soldiers were returned home, people's attitudes were " disrespectful, nobody came out."
            But Dunn said the fact that today's military is all volunteer is significant.  "All these people volunteer to serve," he said. "You've got to respect that."
            The Chavers family is made up of several of  those volunteers; Brock Chavers is married to  Sgt. Minnie Chavers, also a National Guard soldier. He also has siblings in the military, including his oldest brother, Courtney Jones.
            Before the procession began, Jones, stationed in Honduras, spoke in memory of his brother. He remembered him as being a prankster.
            "Brock always loved to pull jokes on me and everybody else," he said. "He liked to keep people on their  toes. We're all still  trying to deal with his loss. Sometimes it's tougher than others. He was a good man and was becoming an even better man. I'll miss him a lot."
            Chavers' funeral is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church on Lakeview Road. Statesboro Police Sgt. Larry Kirkland said the funeral is expected to last until around 4:30 p.m., and then Chavers' body will be escorted to Bulloch Memorial Gardens for burial.
            In consideration of area citizens who would like to turn out along the travel route to show respect and support for Chavers, his family and the military, the funeral procession will follow Lakeview to Northside Drive, where it turns into North Main Street, then continue into the center of Statesboro, where it will make a left turn onto East Main Street, he said.
            The procession will continue back to Northside Drive, taking a right turn, then on to the cemetery, he said.

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