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Southern Crescent turns out for fallen soldier

Photo by Casey Case
Salulting  Pfc. Jeremy Faulkner for his military service were (far right) McDonough brothers, Randy Hall, 16, and Austin Hall, 15, respectively, a sophomore and freshman, at Locust Grove High School. They are members of the Griffin Composite Squadron of the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol.

Photo by Casey Case Salulting Pfc. Jeremy Faulkner for his military service were (far right) McDonough brothers, Randy Hall, 16, and Austin Hall, 15, respectively, a sophomore and freshman, at Locust Grove High School. They are members of the Griffin Composite Squadron of the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

U.S. Army Pfc. Jeremy Faulkner died March 29, during a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division.

The 23-year-old's body was escorted Wednesday by members of the Henry County Police Department, from Peachtree City's Falcon Field, to Cannon Cleveland Funeral Home in McDonough. Area residents lined the streets along the way, and gathered in the McDonough Square to demonstrate their support for the fallen soldier.

Sunshine cascaded over the crowds, who congregated by the dozens to honor Faulkner -- a tribute to his service and his sacrifice. A group near Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church on Ga. Highway 42, milled about, awaiting the soldier's motorcade. Others stood solemnly, as if reflecting.

The men and women, boys and girls, civilians and members of the military held American flags -- lending their support to one many of them deemed an American hero. Such was the sentiment posted with Faulkner's photograph on an electronic billboard in downtown McDonough. It read in red, white, and blue capital letters, "PFC JEREMY FAULKNER THANKS TO AN AMERICAN HERO."

"It's a young man that made the sacrifice for his country," said Tom Oakes, Commandant of the Marine Corps League McDonough Detachment No. 1339. "Any opportunity we get to support our service men and women, we take it."

Oakes stood among the crowds of supporters Wednesday gathered on the McDonough Square, welcoming home the fallen soldier.

Among the supporters were McDonough brothers, Randy Hall, 16, and Austin Hall, 15, respectively, a sophomore and freshman, at Locust Grove High School. Randy Hall said he learned of the procession early Wednesday morning via message on Facebook.com, and quickly asked his younger brother to join him in supporting Faulkner and his family.

As members of the Griffin Composite Squadron of the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol, the Hall brothers decided to further demonstrate their support by dressing in their green, uniform fatigues.

"That could be me one day," remarked the older brother, who is considering joining the U.S. Air Force after high school.

Carolyn Ingram, of Locust Grove, arrived early and was among the first on the McDonough Square to welcome Faulkner home.

"It breaks my heart, but also makes me proud to see the people come out," said Ingram.

Ingram said she believes it is important to support military families, which are prevalent around the Southern Crescent.

"Our neighbor's son just went back over to Afghanistan a couple of days ago," she said. "He was here on two-week's leave. He's 23, too."

For Ingram, knowing there are other locals, like Faulkner, serving their country, in harm's way, is motivation to join the others honoring Faulkner. But she said there are some other connections that make this soldier's death more solemn. Her granddaughter, and her neighbor's son, she said, both attended Luella High School with Faulkner.

Ingram acknowledged that she has no other ties to the military, except for friends she has had over the years. "I have no military in my family," she said, "just in my heart."

Cannon Cleveland Funeral Directors in McDonough will handle Faulkner's funeral arrangements. The funeral parlor also directed services for U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class John C. Beale, who was killed in 2009, while serving in Afghanistan.

Faulkner's obituary highlights his membership to Liberty Baptist Tabernacle in Stockbridge. The private first class was born in East Point, Ga., to parents Judy (Fischel) Berry and Joel Faulkner. He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Judy and Tony Berry; father, Joel Faulkner; siblings, Kimberly Faulkner, Rheena Zuchowski, Joe Berry, Eric Berry, and Lindsey Payton; grandparents, Nadine Faulkner and Martha and Billy Berry.

Faulkner's family is expected to receive friends on Friday, from 4 p.m., to 8 p.m., at Cannon Cleveland Funeral Home, according to Greg Cannon, co-owner of Cannon Cleveland Funeral Directors.

The Rev. Ron Little is scheduled to officiate the soldier's 11 a.m., funeral service. He will be memorialized Saturday at Tara Baptist Church, 10461 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro.

A funeral procession will commence following the funeral service, en route to Fairview Memorial Gardens in Stockbridge. The route is as follows: Travel north from Tara Baptist Church on Ga. Hwy. 19/41, to Hwy. 138; Hwy. 138, to Walt Stephens Road; Walt Stephens Road, to Flippen Road; Flippen Road, to North Henry Blvd.; North Henry Blvd., to East Atlanta Road; East Atlanta Road, to Thurman Road; and Thurman Road, to Fairview Road, to Fairview Memorial Gardens in Stockbridge.

An online guest registry is available at www.cannonclevelandfunerals.com. Funeral organizers said donations may be made in Faulkner's honor to the Aflac Cancer Center, at 1687 Tullie Circle, N.E., Atlanta, Ga. 30329, or Camp Sunshine, at 1850 Clairmont Road, Decatur, Ga. 30033.