Hundreds pay respect to Stewart
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Stafford County along Cool Springs Road and U.S. 1 Friday to salute Marine Staff Sgt. David Stewart as his remains were returned to Stafford.
Stewart, who graduated from North Stafford High School, was killed in the line of duty while serving his fifth deployment with the Marine Corps.
Two large groups formed at the Fraternal Order of Eagles on Cool Springs Road and at Stafford Hospital to stand roadside and honor the staff sergeant.
At the Eagles Aerie 4123, more than 50 carloads of people joined together to wave flags and look on as a procession of motorcyclists and police escorts accompanied the dignified transfer of Stewart’s body from Dover Air Force Base to Covenant Funeral Service in Stafford.
“Because a lot of people aren’t able to ride [in the procession], we’re trying to get as many folks in Stafford to stand out on the street and thank [Stewart] for his service,” said April Deane, who helped to organize the gathering on Cool Springs Road.
A littler further along the route, miniature American flags lined the curb in front of the Stafford Hospital. The hospital was offering supporters free water and air conditioning inside if the heat became too stifling during the wait for the procession. Some people queued up outside to show their respect as early as 2 p.m. The procession arrived at the funeral home around 4:20 p.m.
Cathy Yablonski, senior vice president and administrator at the Stafford Hospital, was impressed by the outpouring of people eager to honor Stewart.
“It means a lot that the community comes out like this,” she said.
The procession began in Delaware and followed U.S. 301 through Maryland, across the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge into King George County, where people began gathering along the route.
It then connected with State Route 3 and followed that road to Stafford and Cool Springs.
Eventually, it ended up on U.S. 1.
Between the hospital and the funeral home on Courthouse Road, people were lined up all along the road. The Fredericksburg Fire Department created an arch over U.S. 1 and hung an American flag over the procession. A large American flag and United States Marine Corps flag hung together from an overpass on another part of the route.
Every group of people held signs with messages of support for Stewart and his family. One common refrain was, “Come stand with us as we salute a fallen hero from Stafford.” Another was “Semper Fidelis,” the Marine Corps motto.
To pass the time in front of Stafford Hospital, a group of children colored a large, partially unfinished American flag with the words “Welcome Home” scrawled across it.
Eventually, everyone did get the chance to honor Staff Sgt. David Stewart and his family as the procession drove past. A few cars, a handful of police escorts and a great many motorcyclists accompanied Stewart to Covenant.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, July 1, at 1 p.m. at the Quantico Marine Base Chapel. Afterward, the burial will take place in Quantico National Cemetery at 2:30 p.m.
Katie Shepherd 540/374-5417