Fallen serviceman McLendon will get hero's homecoming - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fallen serviceman McLendon will get hero's homecoming

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THOMAS COUNTY, GA (WALB) -

By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

THOMAS COUNTY, GA (WALB) –A funeral with full military honors will be held for Naval Senior Chief Blake McLendon Friday at the Thomas County Central High School gym.

McLendon was killed when his helicopter crashed in Afghanistan last week.

Now, his hometown is coming together to for a special tribute to the war hero.

It's homecoming week for students at Thomas County Central High School. But this year, the celebrations will be bittersweet.

"It's kind of ironic that it is homecoming," points out Randy Young, TCCHS's mass media teacher. "It'll be emotional at the stadium Friday because a lot of the students, for example the class of 2000 is having their ten year reunion and a lot of them knew Blake."

"This week has hit hard because Chief McLendon was a hometown guy. And whether you knew him or not, this has touched a lot of people," says Rhonda Stamps, co-creator of the Facebook page "Lost Classmates of TCCHS".

Government buildings and several businesses lowered their flags in honor of Blake McLendon. But some people wanted to do more.

"This community cares about its own and if the school can do anything to make them feel like family and to make this their homecoming too, then yeah, that's what we're going to do," Young promises.

So preparations began for a flag parade along McLendon's funeral route from the high school to Sunset Memorial Gardens where he will be laid to rest. Much of the correspondence happens on the Lost Classmates of Thomas County Central's Facebook page.

"One of the reasons we started this was to keep people's memories alive," says Stamps.

And word is spreading quickly. Several stores have already sold out of flags for the Friday tribute.

"There's so many of us that are going to be there for the flag parade and I'm so proud of them," Stamps told us. "We always come together for each other and that's what it's all about."

Young reminds everyone, "I think we take for granted sometimes the sacrifices these men and women who are out there serving our country make. And Blake just happened to be in a spot where he gave the ultimate sacrifice."

So McLendon's hometown will give him a hero's homecoming.

Thomas County Central High School announced today that students will have a half day off Friday to accommodate the funeral which is open to the public.

More than 400 sailors are expected to be in attendance for the traditional Navy funeral with full honors.

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