With family, fellow soldiers and dozens of flag-bearing Patriot Guard Riders in attendance, the body of Spc. James E. Dutton continued its journey home Friday.
Dutton, 25, died March 31 in Logar province, Afghanistan. As soldiers carried Dutton’s casket, draped in an American flag, from the plane to the hearse at Davis Field Airport, members of Dutton’s family cried, held hands and embraced each other.
Patriot Guard riders silently held dozens of American flags as Dutton’s casket was moved. Once the casket was inside the hearse, Dan James, the ride captain, yelled “Let’s ride,” to the rest of the Patriot Guard.
Dutton’s hearse was followed by the Patriot Guard Riders’ motorcycles — each featuring an American flag — members of the Muskogee Police Department, Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.
Hundreds lined streets between Davis Field Airport and Bradley Funeral Home, 1020 W. Okmulgee Ave., in support of Dutton.
Charmin Lane of Fort Gibson and Amy Corser of Muskogee stood solemnly with tears in their eyes as the procession passed by on East Davis Field Road. They did not know Dutton.
“It’s the very least we could do for someone who gave,” Corser said.
Lane said she plans to attend Dutton’s Monday funeral, which will take place in Checotah. His final resting place will be at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery.
“We just wanted to pay him respect,” Lane said. “People don’t always realize the high cost of freedom. It’s the right thing to do.”
Two Oktaha High School English classes attended the procession on East Davis Field Road. The students held signs thanking Dutton for his service and hailing him a hero.
Teacher Melain Blackwell said it was relevant to a subject her students were reading about.
“People sacrifice for larger than themselves,” Blackwell said. “The students can really make a connection.”
At the corner of Main Street and Okmulgee Avenue, hundreds of people stepped outside the Federal Building to wait for the procession to pass.
Many held American flags and some homemade signs “welcoming a hero home.”
As the flashing lights of the cavalcade grew close to the intersection, the crowd surged forward into the street.
No one spoke — they just held up their flags. Some cried. Some hugged one another as Dutton’s hearse passed.
Dutton’s funeral is set for 10 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church in Checotah.
— Staff writer Wendy Burton contributed to this report.
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Funeral services for Spc. James E. Sutton will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the First Baptist Church of Checotah, followed by interment at Fort Gibson National Cemetery.