Wellsville — Sgt. Jake Butler's flag-covered casket rolled down Main Street, past people holding their hands over their hearts and past businesses that closed for the morning in his honor.
The town paused Monday to honor Butler, who, according to military officials, died April 1 at As Samawah, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle.
"We were proud to have Jake as a son, but we were even prouder he served in the military," his father, James, said after the burial service at Wellsville Cemetery.
At the Butler home on East 2300 Road a few miles north of town, a sign on a tree read, "Jake died for our freedom." In the driveway was a Chevrolet van with a sticker that said, "I'm the proud parent of a soldier."
Butler graduated from Wellsville High School in 1996 and then worked at Nolke's Cash Saver. He later worked for a forklift-parts company in Olathe, and he joined the Army in November 1998.
"He was a simple kind of guy," his father said.
Butler had been stationed at Fort Riley. His job as a cavalry scout was, as one military official put it, "to go out and look for the enemy."
"He was a good country boy," said classmate Melody Newland, 25, who used to ride the bus to school with Butler and his twin brother. "He just loved the farm life. He loved being around his cattle, hunting and fishing."
Monday's ceremonies began when friends, family, soldiers and neighbors gathered for a closed funeral service at Wellsville Baptist Church. Six soldiers with white gloves and black berets stood in formation on a sidewalk leading to the church.
On a mostly empty Main Street, American flags snapped in the wind.
"Closed in honor of Jacob Butler from 10-11:30 today," a sign on J & D Family Pharmacy said.
In the American Legion Hall, members of the women's auxiliary set out trays of cold cuts to feed the busload of soldiers visiting from Fort Riley. Vases full of red, white and blue flowers-- a donation from a local florist --sat on each table.
As the procession of cars left the church, Brian Strickling, 17, stood on the corner of Sixth and Main streets with his baseball cap crushed in his hands. He didn't know Butler personally.
"I just felt like I should be here," he said.
As the funeral procession passed Wellsville Middle School, a crowd of students stood by the side of the road holding miniature flags.
At the graveside, more than 200 people gathered around a green tent.
The chaplain, Lt. Col. Sonja Thompson, spoke about courage, strength, love and willingness to face challenges. Soldiers fired a 21-gun salute, and a bugler played 'Taps.'"
"We behold you as God sees you -- a radiant, ever-loving, ever-living child of his," Thompson said, speaking to the soldier's spirit.
As the crowd dispersed, a uniformed member of the local American Legion post was asked how members of the community would remember Butler years from now.
"They'll probably forget him," said Junior Crist, 82, a World War II veteran. "People forget, you know."