Mike and Tammy Wade, new to Roanoke, were riding their motorcycles Sunday when they noticed hundreds of people lining up along Ferguson Road.
They hadn't heard about Indiana National Guard Spc. Nick Taylor, 20, who was killed about two weeks ago in Afghanistan.
But when they realized that Taylor's casket would pass the area on its final journey home, they pulled over immediately and joined the quiet, solemn crowd.
"It seemed like the right thing to do," Mike Wade, 48, said. "Hopefully, this shows the family that we don't take lightly what our kids are doing over there. We respect what they do. And this is the least we could do to support the family."
After almost two weeks in transit, Taylor's remains were returned to his hometown in Berne on Sunday.
Thousands of people lined the roads along the route of his processional, which started at Indiana Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing Base in Fort Wayne, where the remains had been flown to from Dover Air Force Base, and ended about 30 miles later at a funeral home in Berne.
People waved flags and held signs saying "Thank You, Nick." Some stood in the back of their trucks, others stood in front of cornfields or homes. Many put their hands on their hearts as a gray hearse drove by, escorted on both sides by police motorcycles.
Two fire engines hoisted a garrison-sized flag near the entrance to the Guard base, where hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders had gathered to participate in the processional.
The group of motorcyclists from across the country escorts the remains of military members and protects families from protesters.
Taylor was killed in Afghanistan on July 16. He was working to clear roadside bombs in Kandahar Province when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the vehicle he was driving.
The soldiers then were attacked with small-arms fire. One of his close friends, Spc. Sergio E. Perez Jr., from Crown Point, was also killed in the attack.
Taylor, the son of Berne's police chief, went to South Adams High School, where he was on the football, track and wrestling teams.
He had wanted to become an officer with the Fort Wayne Police Department after his deployment was completed in September.
Before Taylor's body arrived at the Yager-Kirchhofer Funeral Home in Berne, it traveled past 2,400 American flags lining the streets, according to Berne Councilman Ron Dull
Dull said Sunday evening marked the first time the Taylors were able to see Nick's body.
"Berne is happy that its hometown hero is back home," he said.
Taylor's viewing will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the South Adams High School gymnasium. His funeral is slated for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the same location. Both events are open to the public.
Ian Beres and his wife Jenna were among the few gathered outside of the National Guard base who knew Taylor and his family.
In 2010, Ian had worked with Nick and his mother at a furniture manufacturer in Berne. He described Nick as a friendly, down-to-earth kind of guy.
He and his wife chuckled when they recalled the time Nick accidentally ran a forklift into the company's bathroom – a move, they said, he was a good sport about.
"He was a great guy, and they are a great family all around," said Ian, who held a small American flag.
"We wanted to let them know how much it means to us that he gave the ultimate sacrifice."