BAYTOWN, Texas Baytown bade farewell to one of its fallen sons with a flag festooned funeral procession honoring Army Spc. Keith Grace Jr.
Grace, remembered as a young man who had overcome a difficult childhood that included a bout with bone cancer, died earlier this month in combat in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of spectators, most of whom had never even met Grace, lined the streets outside Baytown s First Baptist Church to honor the fallen soldier. Across the street from the church, mourners watched from the beds of pickups decorated with American flags.
This guy s a hero, said Charles Harper, wearing a white cowboy hat that shielded him from the intense sun. And God knows we respect him.
Visitors gathered from miles around, even driving in from other cities, drawn by notices posted on social media. Most of the people on the street apparently didn t even know Grace, but that really didn t matter.
My heart said go, said Lola Lindsey, who came to the service clutching four flags in her hands. So that s why I m here today, is to support this family and this young man who gave his life for us.
Grace was born in Houston and graduated from Robert E. Lee High School. His friends said his adoptive mother died when he was a child.
He never gave up, said Garland Davis, a longtime friend who spoke at the memorial service. He was a fighter.
It wasn t easy, said Alan Vasquez, who grew up with Grace. He went through a lot. He went through a lot, but he was tough. Tough, strong kid.
His friends said he loved the Army like a girlfriend. He had just been awarded a promotion shortly before he and two of his colleagues were killed in Afghanistan.
Grace, who was 26 years old, was laid to rest at Houston National Cemetery.