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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT/AP) – Hundreds of people lined the streets in Wilmington Friday to watch as a horse drawn carriage carried a member of the North Carolina National Guard who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
People were wearing red, white and blue and held flags to pay their respects during the funeral procession for Sgt. Thomas J. Butler IV.
People from all over the area made the drive early Friday morning to be sure they could get to Andrews Mortuary with their flags, before the family arrived. People from Bladenboro, Surf City, were only a few of the long drives in to Wilmington.
Some people cried, others smiled. Some knew Butler, while others did not. Regardless, everyone was proud to be an American Friday morning.
The crowd of supporters moved up and down Market street as Sgt. Butler's funeral procession went from the funeral home, to the First Baptist Church, and finally to the National Cemetery.
Butler, 25, grew up in Pender County and was one of three National Guard members killed from North Carolina. A Taliban suicide bomber rammed a motorcycle packed with explosives into a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol in Khost, Afghanistan.
Butler joined the Guard in 2007 and was on his first combat deployment.
A funeral service was held for Butler Friday morning at the First Baptist Church in Wilmington. He will be buried at the Wilmington National Cemetery.
Butler leaves behind his wife, Holly, and their 6-month-old son, who was named after him.
A funeral service for Staff Sgt. Donna R. Johnson of Raeford is scheduled for Saturday. Sgt. Jeremy F. Hardison of Browns Summit was buried Thursday.
Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.