Friends, family members and strangers paid their respects to a fallen soldier on Friday.
As Staff Sgt. Jon Martin's flag-draped casket was transported down Broad and Center streets to Immaculate Conception Church, children waved little American flags and saluted. Older Bellevue residents fought back tears and clutched the same yellow ribbons that spelled "Hero" in a nearby chain-link fence.
"He gave his life for our country, and I'm very proud of him," said Wendy Manlet, whose son graduated from Bellevue High School in 1993 along with Martin.
"When you think of a hero, I think of Jon Martin," she said, her eyes and voice full of pride.
Martin, 33, of Bellevue, died Thanksgiving Day from injuries he suffered Nov. 9 when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. The father of three was serving his third tour in Iraq.
Friday, the Purple Heart recipient was taken by hearse to the church, where family members grieved and were consoled by well-wishers who attended his viewing.
Immaculate Conception Schools sixth-grader Amy Roth joined her classmates in waving a flag and yellow ribbon as the hearse made its slow journey through Bellevue.
"You never really hear of those soldiers who died over there," she said. "He's very brave."
Martin, who graduated from Immaculate Conception Schools in 1989, has been an inspiration to all of the children, said Principal Kathy Bolen.
"This is one way we can honor him and all the military presently in Iraq, and to show our support for the family," Bolen said.
Darlene DeBlase, a sixth-grade teacher at Immaculate Conception, spelled out in ribbon the word "Hero" to send a message to her students.
"I think it really hit home for the kids," DeBlase said. "To leave his family and serve, that's the ultimate sacrifice. It teaches what a real hero is."
Martin's casket was draped in a U.S. flag as family and friends paid their respects.
"I know the pain I'm feeling right now," Manlet said. "I can't imagine what they're (the family) going through. My heart just goes out to each and every one of them."
Martin served as platoon leader with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Ky. and was awarded the Purple Heart after he was wounded during his second tour in Iraq.
Martin's family will receive two awards during the funeral service at 11 a.m. today: a Bronze Star and his second Purple Heart.
Jeff Ryan, a former Marine, joined members of the Marine Corps League of Norwalk to honor Martin, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years before joining the U.S. Army.
"We do that for all our brothers," said Ryan, of Bellevue. "It doesn't matter. A Marine's a Marine."
Though Richard Lowery is not a veteran, he stood guard to the entrance of the church with a flag.
Lowery, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, helped lead a procession of Martin's casket from the Lahm Airport in Mansfield to the funeral home on Wednesday. The Patriot Guard Riders will also lead the funeral procession today.
"We are here at the request of the family," Lowery said. "I hope we provide them with some solace during these dark days."
In observance of Martin's life, Gov. Ted Strickland ordered that all flags on public land in Huron County should fly at half-staff from sunset Friday to sunrise Sunday.
Bellevue Mayor David Kile also announced Friday that, in honor of Bellevue's fallen son, today shall be observed as "Staff Sgt. Jon Martin Day."
"We must all see to it that the supreme sacrifice by Staff Sgt. Jon Martin shall not have been made in vain and that he may forever rest in peace and abide in our memories," Kile's proclamation stated in part.
Honoring Staff Sgt. Jon Martin
*Funeral: 11 a.m. today at Immaculate Conception Church, 231 E. Center St. Burial will follow in Bellevue Catholic Cemetery.
*Those who wish may leave condolences for Martin's family at sanduskyregister.com
*Donations may be sent to the Jon Martin Fund c/o First National Bank of Bellevue, 120 North St., Bellevue 44811, or call 419-483-7340.