Thomasville pays its respects to an American hero -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Thomasville pays its respects to an American hero

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By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) –More than 400 sailors and thousands of people from Thomasville paid their respects to an American war hero Friday afternoon.

Naval Special Forces Senior Chief Petty Officer Blake McLendon was laid to rest after an hour and a half long funeral with full military honors.

McLendon was killed last week in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Pride. It's what almost everyone here felt as Naval officer Blake McLendon's funeral procession drove through Thomasville Friday afternoon. Pride for the sacrifice McLendon made for his country, and pride for the community that came together to show their support.

"We come together as a community often, but today is miraculous," says supporter Hallie Godwin. "You drive through town and you seen flags everywhere and people supporting our troops and a local of ours. I have to say, I've never been more proud of Thomasville than I am today."

Joan Holmes agrees, "I'm so proud of the community. I wish every person in Thomas County were here to show this family how proud we are. I've never experienced something like this before, but I think I'm going to feel very emotional and feel love for the family."

Thousands of people packed the Thomas County Central High School for McLendon's funeral and thousands more lined the streets of Thomasville for the chance to pay their respects to the fallen war hero.

"Today really is about David Blake McLendon and celebrating his life and honoring a person who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country," says the Public Affairs Officer of McLendon's Naval Special Warfare Group, Lt. Arlo Abrahamson.

"There is no greater honor than giving your life for someone, for their freedoms. That's just amazing," Godwin says.

"We may not know him. But in a case like this, someone who served in the military and died for his country so we can have freedoms and rights, honestly? I think that warrants something exactly like what's going on today," admits Tim Hobbs, another proud supporter.

And Hobbs hopes the McLendon family will find comfort in knowing an entire community is there for them in their time of need.

"I'm hoping they'll feel our support. In the end, nothing's going to bring him back," Hobbs says, "But I hope they feel proud of our country and our town the way everyone else here is."

Godwin adds, "They're definitely not alone."

And Friday, Thomasville proved that, and in the process, showed their proud to be Americans because of people like Blake McLendon.

A public reception was held at the Best Western Conference Center after the ceremony.

A memorial fund was established at Thomasville National Bank in memory of Blake McLendon to fund scholarships for Thomas County Central high school graduates.

A radical church group from Kansas that often pickets at military funerals threatened to demonstrate in Thomasville Friday, but apparently, and thankfully, they didn't show up.

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