June 25, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck
Hours before Sergeant First Class John Michael Hennen would make the journey to his final resting place, hundreds of people began lining the streets in his hometown of Vinton.
"We're out here to show respect for a soldier that gave his life for his country," said Matthew McHan.
26-year-old Hennen was killed last weekend while serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. His tragic death in a war still raging overseas has put the price of freedom in perspective for the small town.
"I have my grandson over there... So it affects me," said Korean & Vietnam Wars Veteran Lawrence Buxbaun.
"It does hit close to home," said Vinton resident J.J. Coine.
Despite the rain, the show of support for the young soldier's family continued to pour in for more than three miles to the cemetery.
"We're going to be here for them. He's our hometown hero. And we want the family to know we're behind them," said Vinton resident Judy Monceaux.
At the graveside ceremony were those who knew Sgt. First Class Hennen best. They describe him as a disciplined and dedicated soldier, who finished top in his class as a skilled sniper. Giving all he had, they say he exemplified a true American soldier.
"I'm really sad for his loss. But I know he truly believed in his mission and what he was doing for this country," said Captain Aaron Duplechin.
"It's people like him that this country needs... And it just seems like a shame that one of those lives is gone," said friend Johnathon Zeringue.
Gone but not forgotten, Hennen paid the ultimate price for freedom -- a sacrifice for the country he loved and the loved ones he leaves behind.
"His family can hold their heads high and be proud. He did die for a great country," said friend Staff Sgt. Alejandro Mejia.