Staff Sgt. Jon Martin was carried to his final resting place by the hands of friends, family and community members.
"Jon will start his eternal life today," Immaculate Conception Church Deacon Jim Cavera said. "We will take him to his final resting place and God will then open up his arms to greet him."
After struggling to remain composed during various benefits, Martin's family allowed tears to flow freely Saturday.
"This family has been so brave," Bellevue resident Rachel Evans said. "They've kept those tears back for the children, but today, I'm glad they let it all out. They really needed to."
Martin, 33, died Thanksgiving Day in a German hospital from injuries he suffered Nov. 9 when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle.
A 1993 graduate of Bellevue High School, Martin served in the Marine Corps before joining the Army. The father of three was serving his third tour in Iraq as platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division.
Flags in Huron County flew at half-staff -- an order given by Gov. Ted Strickland in honor of Martin -- during the day Bellevue Mayor David Kile proclaimed "Staff Sgt. Jon Martin Day."
With parking lots full and Main Street parking roped off, friends and community members parked miles away and walked to the church to pay their respects to Bellevue's fallen soldier.
"I would've walked 10 miles," said Bob Newark, an Army veteran and Bellevue resident. "I hate the war, but I support all those boys out there."
Entering the church, mourners passed the shiny wooden casket on which an American flag was draped with care.
During the hour-long service, the Army presented Martin's family with a Bronze Star and his second Purple Heart for selflessness displayed during his third Iraq tour.
"Staff Sgt. Jon Martin's actions represented his dedication," U.S. Army Lt. Tom McCarthy said. "He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country."
Sobbing into a tissue, head in her hands, during the service for her husband, Becki Martin broke down during the presentation. She looked to the high ceiling of the church and back at the casket several times.
She whispered to herself, as if wishing the heavens to wake her from the cold reality in the casket next to her.
Exiting the church, bystanders and veterans saluted the family and ushered them into a waiting limousine.
Community members stood shivering in the bitter cold, lining the downtown processional route, waving flags and sporting yellow ribbons over layers of clothing.
"The cold doesn't mean a thing to me," Chandra Flanigan, a Bellevue retiree, said. "All I can think about is the coldness the family must feel and how lucky I am to have my children."
The Bellevue and Clyde fire departments raised the ladders of two trucks to hang a large American flag, under which the white hearse drove on the way to Bellevue Catholic Cemetery.
Surrounded by those who've passed on, Martin's burial plot was covered by blue tents that provided seating for the family, whose red faces glistened with tears.
Sitting between her two daughters, Alaina, 8, and Allie, 5, Becki Martin hid her eyes behind black sunglasses. She kissed their foreheads and rumpled their hair.
A volley of rifle shots broke the stillness of the cemetery and the young widow's sobs shook her body. Seeing their mother grief-stricken, the girls broke into tears. Their mother enveloped them in her arms.
"My daddy," 5-year old Allie whispered, her blue eyes tearing up.
Seeing the little girls cry made those in attendance choke on sobs and hold onto one another for comfort.
Members of the Army removed the flag from Martin's casket, slowly and precisely folded it, and placed it in his wife's arms. She held it to her shaking body.
Martin's sister and brother-in-law, Heather and Mark Bollinger, held Martin's youngest child, 10-month-old Trenton. The couple kissed his tiny hands and pulled blankets around him as they wiped away tears.
Martin's father, Don Martin, accepted the second flag and held his wife's hand as they looked longingly at the casket holding their son.
"He was a hero," a family friend whispered. "Your boy was a hero."
Watching family and friends touch Martin's casket, whisper good-byes and kiss the casket lid, Mark Rogers shook his head and fist with emotion.
"A parent shouldn't have to bury a child," Rogers, a friend of Don Martin, said. "It's just not right. What is this world coming to?"
How to Help
Donations for the family of Staff Sgt. Jon Martin 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.
Those who wish may leave condolences for Martin's family at sanduskyregister.com