In Kennesaw, Walsh’s hometown, and elsewhere that the motorcade traveled in Cobb and Fulton counties, people stood at attention and waved American flags as the hearse carrying his body passed. The procession included a dozen police motorcycles, numerous other police vehicles and more than 50 members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group.
“As a Marine myself, we should support our troops above and beyond anything else, and support the families who lost the loved ones,” said Terry Bailey, 42, of Acworth. “There’s total strangers out here that will show their love and respect and support for their loved ones.”
Walsh, 28, was killed when an improvised explosive device blew up his vehicle while on patrol in the rural southern Ghazni province, according to the defense department. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry, 1st brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Along with Walsh, who was riding in the “truck commander’s seat,” driver Pfc. Michael Metcalf of Boynton Beach, Fla. was killed in the attack, said Army Sgt. Jonathan Shaw. The two were remembered at a ceremony in Afghanistan on Friday.
Walsh leaves behind a wife, Debbra, and a son, Austin, as well as his parents, Paul and Carolyn Walsh of Kennesaw.
On Wednesday, Walsh, an infantry platoon leader, was honored along the motorcade’s route with a flag flying from the old Canton Road bridge over Cobb Parkway. In downtown Kennesaw, a sign outside Big Shanty Barber Shop read: “From a grateful nation and a heartbroken community … You will be missed.”
Along Old Highway 41, which turns into Main Street in Kennesaw, dozens of flags were planted in the ground to honor the town’s fallen hero.
Susan Catlin of Kennesaw, 59, stopped at the city’s veterans memorial, located just feet from the motorcade route, before walking over to honor Walsh. She said she comes from a military family dating back to the Revolutionary War.
“How courageous of these soldiers, what a sacrifice,” she said. “What they do shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
Walsh’s body arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base Wednesday morning. Georgia National Guard spokesman 1st Lt. William Carraway said Walsh was honored there with a brief private ceremony that featured state Adjutant Gen. Jim Butterworth, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) and other officials.
The motorcade left Dobbins on Atlanta Road and took South Cobb Drive to Cobb Parkway, traveling north to Blue Springs Road in Kennesaw. After passing in front of North Cobb High School, the motorcade headed back south through downtown Kennesaw and along Chastain Road to Frey Road, through the campus of Kennesaw State University, Walsh’s alma mater. The vehicles then headed to Roswell Funeral Home in Fulton County, where a private funeral will be today.
Though students and staff from KSU were among those honoring Walsh by lining the route on Wednesday, the school will pay further tribute. At 2:30 p.m. Friday, KSU will hold a memorial service for Walsh, a 2008 graduate, at its campus green located between Kennesaw Hall and the Buress Building, spokeswoman Tammy DeMel said.
Walsh’s motorcade is the latest of around 150 that Patriot Guard state Captain Jeff Goodiel has escorted in the last six years in Georgia. Along with soldiers killed in action, the organization escorts funerals for military veterans, as well as deceased first responders like police officers and firefighters.
After today’s funeral service, Patriot Guard Riders will escort Walsh’s body to a crematorium. Walsh’s widow will then take the ashes to North Carolina where they will be spread on the Atlantic Ocean, Goodiel said.
Before he joined the Army in March 2010, Jonathan Walsh worked as sales director for Reliable Security LLC, a Marietta event security company. Before that, he served as consultant for two years with Zurvita, a Houston-based marketing company. He also worked as a credit manager for Wells Fargo Financial.
Casey King, 41, of Kennesaw, who attended Wednesday’s processional with her Army veteran husband, Bill, said there is never enough that can be done to honor those who have sacrificed for their country.
“What they did with the flags was great,” she said. “I just wish more people would take the time to come down.”