A community comes together to honor a hero

The death of Marine Lance Corporal Dale Means has affected many people in the New Prague community. Means, a 2007 graduate of New Prague High School, died Sunday, Nov. 18, when the convoy he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan. He is believed to be the first active- duty member of the military from the New Prague area killed in combat since World War II. In the hours and days after Means’ death, there were many messages on Twitter and Facebook, two social media outlets. The initial tweets were all of sadness and gratitude, expressing sorrow for the loss and gratitude to his family for their sacrifice. On Monday, a Marine Corps detail escorted Lance Corporal Means home to New Prague for the final time. Also accompanying the detail were members of the Patriot Guard, a group that provides motorcycle escorts and stands at attention outside of funerals and visitations for fallen military personnel. Perhaps the most impressive sight, though, was the flags. Hundreds of flags lined both sides of Main Street and other areas along the funeral procession route. Larry Eckhardt of Illinois, known as Larry the Flag Guy, arrived Tuesday afternoon and with a group of volunteers placed American flags every 12 feet on both sides of the street from Lincoln Avenue all the way to Alton Avenue, on the south side of the highway past the car dealerships, in other spots along the route and on the approach to St. Patrick’s Church, where the funeral was held. Flags were also in the St. Patrick Cemetery next to Means’ gravesite. Joe Vaughan and Arnie Ambroz were two of the more than 100 volunteers who helped place the flags. “It was very impressive,” said Vaughan. “The turnout was unbelievable..” I can’t explain what went through my mind,” said Vaughan, who is also a member of the New prague Veterans Honor Guard. “Last night, when I was driving home, there were some tears in my eyes,” Ambroz added.

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