GySgt E.J. Pate, 29, died in action on June 26, 2011 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. His body was brought back to the U.S. on the 4th of July. His funeral was held at Mullins High School Thursday afternoon.
Before the funeral procession, about 300 men and women arrived on motorcycles. They are a part of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group dedicated to honoring those who serve in the military.
"This is our country, and these young men and women are dying for our freedom, and I think we should at least be here to honor them on their passing," said Bill Stewart with the Patriot Guard.
The group brought dozens of American flags with them to be displayed along the entrance to the school. They were joined by family, friends, and those with loved ones serving in the military.
All came together to honor Pate's life and service in the military. On the program Pate is described as someone who "lived life his way and by his own rules."
Instead of arriving in a hearse, Pate's casket arrived inside a glass carriage pulled by a three wheeled motorcycle. His wife Kimberly rode along as the passenger. When those close to him made their way to the school, you could see the sadness of his passing in their faces.
"You grow up with all these people you know, and everybody goes their separate ways, and next thing you know, you hear some bad news. It just shouldn't be that way," said BJ Skipper, who was a classmate of Pate and was also in NJROTC with him.
"I have a feeling for all the veterans that serve, especially those from South Carolina and lose their life for our nation. (I) just felt like it'd be appropriate thing to ride over here," added Army veteran Barry Wingard.
One concern with Pate's funeral was members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church had said they would protest, but they did not show up to the relief of the crowd.
"He was a good person, when I knew him. I'm sure he was a good soldier and fought hard for this country, and this should be his moment of glory right here," added Skipper.
Pate leaves behind a wife and two children.
His body will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on July 11, 2011.