UPDATE: Body of hero returns to Tennessee Valley
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) –Friends, family and strangers are honoring the service of a soldier, who was killed fighting for our country.
Sgt. Edward W. Koehler, 47, died when a bomb struck his convoy in Afghanistan, on July 18th. He was a truck driver for a transportation unit, four months shy of 20 years' service and eligibility for retirement, when his unit was called to duty.
At first, Dick Lermon couldn't accept it.
"I was asleep in bed early last Tuesday," he says. "My wife came in crying, and said Ed Koehler is dead. I said what?!"
Reality would hit well before Thursday, when a military charter the military charter would bring his church friend home to the Tennessee Valley.
"We just want, that his service be recognized, for what he did, and what others are doing," Lermon says.
Before the Guard, even before his six years' service in the Marines, Ed Koehler was a biker. So it's more than fitting that his honor procession would get more than a police escort, two dozen brothers and sisters mounted upon their own horses of iron, Patriot Guard Riders.
"I'm a civilian, but we've got these guys dying for us," ride Captain 'Kimmer' McNeese says. "For my freedom and your freedom to be here today, this is my way of paying these guys back."
"It's the least we can do," rider Sid 'Squirrel' Kelly says. "It's the absolute least we can do."
A retired Fulton County Sheriff's deputy, Kelly drives front and center, a Vietnam-era veteran who never served in Vietnam, seeking penance.
"For those who didn't make it back," he says. "I go through counseling at the VA once a month. This is good therapy."
Whether fellow soldiers, or civilian strangers, the Honor Guard, the ritual of military funerals, offer a certain comfort; that our country stands with those who serve and mourns their sacrifice.
But Dick Lermon grasps to find the right words, for the eulogy no one expected to give.
"He was a warrior, I want to emphasize that," he says. "He had that bearing that he probably got in the Corps."
"He was self-confident. He knew what he needed to do and he did it," Lermon adds.
Sgt. Koehler's family asks that memorial contributions go to the Wounded Warrior Project. The program provides services to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and their transition to civilian life.
Send your donations to:
Wounded Warrior Project
4899 Belfort Road
Jacksonville, FL 32256