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Supporters turn out for Marines' funerals



Published: Thu, August 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Family, friends and fellow Marines paid their last respects to the fallen soldiers.

MENTOR, Ohio (AP) -- When Lance Cpl. Brian Montgomery was laid to rest Wednesday, a group of Marine Corps veterans on motorcycles was there -- just as they have been for the funerals of all Ohio Marines killed in the Iraq war.

The turnout by five members of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club International reflects the brotherhood of the Marine Corps -- "Once a Marine, always a Marine," Tony Kruman, 38, a Lorain firefighter who served with the Marines from 1985 to 1989, said before the funeral.

The group's ability to attend the funerals will be tested over the next several days. Montgomery, 26, of Willoughby, was one of 14 Marines killed last week while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines based in Brook Park near Cleveland.

There will be another funeral today, two Friday and three Saturday.

Brian Molina, 35, also a Lorain firefighter and Marine veteran, said it's difficult approaching the members of a dead Marine's family at the funeral home or service, but the Leathernecks are determined to keep alive their spirit.

"They need to know they are not alone," he said.

The bikers, along with seven members of other motorcycle clubs, accompanied the hearse carrying Montgomery's body from Mentor United Methodist Church to the cemetery in Chesterland.

A family's goodbye

During the funeral, Montgomery was eulogized by his widow, his father and his brother, a fellow Marine who accompanied his brother's body home from Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Eric Montgomery, 21, slowly saluted his brother's casket before telling mourners that having Brian assigned with him in Iraq "made it so much easier to be there."

Eric Montgomery said he promised to take care of Brian's wife and 1-year-old child if anything happened. "I said, 'Brian, I'll do it 'til the day I die,'" said Montgomery, whose chest-pounding eulogy had mourners alternately laughing and sniffling.

Their father, Paul Montgomery, choked back sobs as he said Brian was a patriot who wanted to defend his country against terrorism. "I know he's in heaven because he died in hell," the father said.

Pamela Montgomery encouraged mourners to uphold her husband's memory by supporting his comrades in arms. "Brian was so proud to be a Marine. He loved his country," she said.




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