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Community welcomes home fallen soldier (w/video, gallery)

By Sara Sneath
April 23, 2014 at 7:03 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2014 at 11:23 p.m.

Army Spc. Kerry Danyluk arrived at the Victoria Regional Airport to  family, friends and those who wanted to pay their respects. Danyluk died April 15 of injuries suffered in combat in Afghanistan.

Army Spc. Kerry Danyluk came home Wednesday for the final time.

As the chartered flight carrying Danyluk's wooden casket landed about 11:30 a.m. at Victoria Regional Airport, more than a hundred residents lined the route to Grace Funeral Home on Houston Highway to honor the fallen soldier.

Many who waited along the streets never met the 27-year-old Yoakum man during his life.

But all felt compelled to offer their condolences and to honor his service.

"My heart is saying this is the place I need to be," said Shawn Hedrick, 50, of Cuero, who came to pay her respects.

Hedrick worked Tuesday night, but when she learned about Danyluk's arrival on Facebook on Wednesday morning, she headed to Victoria, stopping to pick up yellow balloons along the way.

Danyluk, a 2004 graduate of Yoakum High School, died April 15 of injuries he suffered from small arms fire April 12 in Pul-e-Alam, Logar province, Afghanistan.

Standing to create a corridor for Danyluk's silver hearse, residents held American flags, Texas flags and service flags with emblems of the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps and the National League of Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action Families.

Men and women saluted. All stood reverently as they watched the hearse drive by.

About 15 members of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted Danyluk from the airport to the funeral home. Victoria police and fire department vehicles were part of the procession.

"We call these honor missions. The sole purpose of our mission is to honor the military member and the family," said Oscar Pena, of Port Lavaca, the local Patriot Guard Rider captain.

The community is very supportive of military members now, but that wasn't always the standard, he said. Many of the Patriot Guard riders served during the Vietnam War.

"We flew into San Francisco. We didn't get spit on or anything, but we did get the middle finger salute," said Jerry Fortenberry, a Patriot Guard Rider who served in Vietnam.

Yolanda Ontiveros, 67, of Victoria, stood outside the fence of the Victoria Regional Airport terminal in support of a family she has never met.

Ontiveros has been waiting 45 years for her brother, Ricardo Davis, whose body was never recovered from Vietnam, to come home.

Ontiveros said about Danyluk, "He's home now."



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