Concord, NC says goodbye to Army Pfc. James McClamrock

Via the Concord Independent Tribune:

CONCORD, N.C. — All of Concord stopped briefly Wednesday afternoon to honor a fallen soldier.

PFC James McClamrock returned home from Iraq to cities that closed up shops, cleared an interstate and stood silently on the sides of the roads to pay tribute to him and his family.

McClamrock, 22, was killed on Sept. 7, when a man dressed in an Iraqi army uniform fired on American soldiers. He was one of two killed after major combat operations were declared over on Aug. 31.

Hundreds of people lined the streets as the mile-long procession drove from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to its final destination at Hartsell Funeral Home on Branchview Drive.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg authorities closed down northbound Interstate 85 from the airport to Dale Earnhardt Boulevard as the processional passed. On every overpass I-85 in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties, firefighters lined bridges, running their emergency lights and displaying large American flags to passersby.

Residents slowly made their way onto several of the overpasses, paying their respects as the long line of Patriot Guard Riders, emergency personnel and others in the processional snaked north to Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.

As the cavalcade reached surface streets, it was again met with an outpouring of community support. School children from Beverly Hills Elementary School lined Church Street.

Alongside the children, many of the businesses people stopped working to step onto the sidewalk and salute the fallen soldier. Others stood silent, waving flags or covering their hearts with their hands.

In downtown Concord, storefronts closed about noon and people lined the sidewalks on Union Street as the procession rolled through.

Business owners passed out small American flags to bystanders as they waited for the procession. The Lions Club left out flags from Labor Day on the sidewalks.

About 12:45 p.m., the procession came around Cabarrus County Courthouse on Corban Avenue and slowly made its way up to Concord City Offices. The Patriot Guard Riders — 100 strong — rode ahead of the hearse and the family van, the noise of their motorcycle engines reverberating off the buildings.

Then the hearse stopped and the van stopped in front of city hall.

A Concord Fire and Life Safety honor guard stood in the street, flanked by city council. Mayor Scott Padgett and Dr. Hector Henry quietly spoke to the family, presenting them with a key to the city.

Henry, a colonel in the Army Medical Corps who served six months in Iraq last year, was dressed in his fatigues.

All activity stopped in downtown Concord for five minutes as the mayor made the presentation. There wasn’t a sound, save for the van engine and a distant news helicopter. Then the family boarded the van to continue the trip to the funeral home.

Battalion Captain Ed Shaver, commander of honor guard, broke the silence, calling a troop of police officers and firefighters to attention. They saluted as the hearse and family van drove on.

God bless the McClamrock family, and may Army Pfc. James McClamrock RIP.

You can view photos of the tribute procession here and here. Have the Kleenex handy.

“Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And, our soldiers don’t just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.”Former US Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) – 2004 Republican National Convention

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