In a casket draped with the flag he gave his life for, Lance Cpl. Brandon John Garabrant came home Saturday.
The body of the 19-year-old Marine and volunteer firefighter from Greenfield was received by his family in a brief, dignified ceremony at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan attended the ceremony, embracing his parents, John Garabrant of Peterborough and Jessie Evans Garabrant of Rindge, and his younger siblings Mykala and Jacob.
Then, escorted by firetrucks, police cruisers and New Hampshire Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles, a black hearse bore Garabrant's casket in a solemn 40-mile procession to Peterborough, where funeral services are scheduled later this week.
Garabrant and two fellow Marines were killed on June 20 by a bomb in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where they were serving as part of a NATO international security force, according to marinecorpstimes.com. The bomb, which also killed a military service dog, was carried by a motorbike and detonated close to their patrol, the news site reported.
Garabrant was a proud Marine, finishing high school early to join the Corps. He also loved firefighting, serving as an Explorer in both Peterborough fire and police departments before becoming a volunteer firefighter in Temple.
Yesterday, members of the Peterborough and Temple fire departments stood at attention, awaiting the arrival of their young comrade's casket at Wiggins Airways.
About 15 minutes before the white charter plane landed, seven Marines in dress uniforms quietly practiced the formal transfer ceremony in the shadow of the building: the precise steps in unison, the slow salute.
Lining the road out front were the motorcycles, many ridden by military veterans.
Jim Constantin of Concord said New Hampshire Patriot Guard Riders put out the call for the mission of escorting the young Marine's final trip home. "It's for honor, remembrance and respect," said Constantin, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam.
Wayne Robinson of Newport is a member of Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 and American Legion Post 5 in Peterborough. He wanted to be there, he said, "helping to bring him home."
As the 11 a.m. arrival time neared, many of the Patriot Guard Riders and others gathered at the fence around the tarmac.
Jamie Cote of Londonderry brought her two boys, 13-year-old Taylor and 12-year-old Nicholas. They were there, she said, "to pay our respects."
"Really, just to show my kids the freedom we take so for granted is not free," Cote said. "It comes at a cost, and tragically, this is sometimes the cost."
The boys' father, Sgt. Adam Dyer, was part of the Londonderry Police Department escort at the ceremony. Both Dyer and Cote served in the Army.
At 11:12 a.m., the flag-draped casket was removed from the plane. Garabrant's family walked slowly forward, lingering for a few moments as the Marines waited a respectful distance away.
A profound silence fell among those gathered outside the fence. A young man in a Peterborough Fire Department shirt wiped his eyes, while an older man wearing a Marine Corps League hat held a long salute.
The procession from Manchester to Peterborough set off at 11:35 a.m., led by cruisers from Peterborough, Londonderry and the state police and fire engines from Temple and Peterborough. Bringing up the rear, after the long line of motorcycles, were firetrucks from Brookline and Mason.
Fourteen members of the Army Reserve Center in Londonderry stood at attention as the procession passed.
Sgt. Arron Rochette learned about the ceremony just that morning and put out the call for other soldiers to attend. He didn't think twice about being there. "Nobody did," he said.
Rochette served in the Marine Corps before joining the Army as a firefighter, and he deployed to Afghanistan with the 530th Engineering Detachment in 2011-12. He grew up in the Peterborough area.
"You've got to be there for your brothers," he said. "It's really a camaraderie."
Staff Sgt. Lee Gaudette of Concord said risk is part of the job for those who serve. But he said, "Nobody ever thinks about it - till it happens."
The focus now has to be on Brandon Garabrant's loved ones and "what can the state of New Hampshire do for the family," he said.
Garabrant was serving with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He was posthumously promoted to corporal, a military custom for those who die in combat.
Calling hours for Garabrant will be held Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m. at ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough, from which he graduated just a year ago.
His funeral service will be held at the school on Saturday at 10 a.m., followed by a military burial ceremony at New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. His paternal grandfather, Korean War Army veteran Charles Evans Sr., is also buried there.