Southern California law enforcement officers and firefighters gathered by the hundreds along highway overpasses from Lindbergh Field to Murrieta Wednesday evening to honor a fallen Marine as his body returns home.
Marine Sgt. Eric M. Seaman, 30, died when a Camp Pendleton-based UH-1Y helicopter crashed while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nepal.
The Wildomar native trained at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego after enlisting in 2009 and settled in Murrieta with wife Samantha and children 1-year-old Ryleigh and 2-year-old Roman.
For the event, his family created t-shirts that say "Fallen but not forgotten" in their lost loved one's memory.
"Every time Roman sees a t-shirt, he goes, 'Daddy, daddy,'" said Seaman's brother-in-law Troy Thomas. "That kills me, but I know I have to be strong and show him, 'Yes that's your dad; yes your dad loved the country.'"
As soon as the fallen Marine's casket landed in San Diego, a funeral procession traveled over San Diego County freeways. Mounted above them were firefighters, police officers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees and California Highway Police officers.
They rose fire engine ladders to hoist up American flags, mirroring those held by dozens of onlookers who gathered beside them.
It was the type of tribute where no words were needed because the number of people alone spoke volumes.
"It's for my son-in-law, but God bless these people because they've been through something too," said Margie Thomas, Seaman's mother-in-law.
The route began on Harbor Boulevard and picked up Interstate 5 north at Grape Street. It then continued onto Interstate 8 eastbound until State Route 163. From there, the procession moved onto Interstate 15 northbound.
The City of Murrieta is asking the public to bring American Flags and a flashlight or smart phone with a light app. Laser lights can present a danger so they are not suggested.
Seaman was with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Helicopter Squadron 469. He and five fellow Marines, two Nepalese soldiers and five people from Nepal died when the Marine UH-1 Huey helicopter crashed May 12 in the remote mountains of Nepal.