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The community wraps its arms around a Fallen Hero

By Rick Cooper, Guest Reporter
Published on Thursday, August 2, 2012

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Those who knew Adam Ross or wished they had known him flooded the sidewalks three and four deep, their young and old faces etched with remorse and respect, pride and humility, hurt and solace.

Mark Tucker

Those who knew Adam Ross or wished they had known him flooded the sidewalks three and four deep, their young and old faces etched with remorse and respect, pride and humility, hurt and solace.



Enlarge photo

Adam Ross' community paused. They took a moment to honor one of their own.

Adam Ross' community paused. They took a moment to honor one of their own.



Enlarge photo

When the procession turned onto Highway 14. People had emerged from the hustle and bustle of their businesses to line the sidewalks.

Mark Tucker

When the procession turned onto Highway 14. People had emerged from the hustle and bustle of their businesses to line the sidewalks.



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Mark Tucker



At 1:24, the small charter plane taxied across the tarmac at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer. It seemed to move gently to a stop at Stevens Aviation as if mindful of the precious cargo it carried. A few yards from a hearse, it rolled to a stop. When its deafening engines finally fell silent, all that could be heard was the sobbing of a young girl.

There was no breeze on this sweltering August afternoon. No shade as the family of Private First Class Adam Ross, killed July 24 in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, sat in folding chairs on the hot expanse of concrete beneath a hazy blue sky. No respite for the hundreds of friends and family and fellow soldiers who stood along the fence with American flags in their hands and tears in their eyes.

On the blistering tarmac, soldiers stood at attention in their uniforms. The U.S. Army Honor Guard in full dress blues and white gloves stood at attention. Police officers from Greer, Duncan and Lyman stood at attention.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold on a day like this,” said Sgt. Chad Richardson of the Greer Police Department.

The door of the plane opened. A soldier disembarked. He stepped reverently aside as Pfc. Ross’ flag-draped casket was lowered to the ground and into the arms of six soldiers. Ever so gently, they delivered their comrade back into the loving arms of his family. Of his community.

Above, huge passenger planes continued to land and take off, bearing the living in pursuit of life. A few sparrows flitted below the wispy, unmoving clouds and into the trees bordering the tarmac. The world continued to spin on its axis while Ross’ body was placed in the hearse and taken to Wood Mortuary

But his community paused. They took a moment to honor one of their own. To be reminded by his untimely death that freedom isn’t free. That there is a cost, one dearly paid by 19-year-olds like Adam Ross. Like the Patriot Guards of other wars riding on flag-adorned motorcycles just ahead of their fallen fellow soldier’s hearse.

His community pulled their vehicles to the side of Highway 80 as the sad procession passed. A man standing outside his black pickup saluted. A young boy sitting on his father’s shoulders placed his hand across his heart. An old man on Donaldson Avenue removed his hat. Hundreds of people lined the road on either side, gently waving tiny American flags as they held their heads high and blinked back tears of grief and gratitude.

The procession turned onto Highway 14. People had emerged from the hustle and bustle of their businesses to line the sidewalks. To tell the Ross family that they feel your pain. That it could have been their son or brother or cousin or nephew. That it still might be one day.

At 1:50 p.m., with helicopters droning like dragonflies, the procession crossed the bridge at Cannon Avenue. When it turned left onto Poinsett, the sidewalks swelled from hundreds into thousands. Those who knew Adam Ross or wished they had known him flooded the sidewalks three and four deep, their young and old faces etched with remorse and respect, pride and humility, hurt and solace. Reflected in their conflicted expressions was our universal struggle to come to grips with the paradox of our young dying: so much vitality, so much fragility.

A woman along Poinsett held a sign: “Our Hero.” Adam Ross was our boy. Our neighbor. Our friend. Our future.

It was close to two o’clock as the hearse reached the mortuary. When the soldier’s family emerged from their car, the sound that split the silence of a community was that of a young girl sobbing.

About the author
Rick Cooper is an author, teacher at Gaffney High School and former national and state award winning sports columnist .

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