Fallen Mullins Marine escorted home on Independence Day

As the fireworks and celebrations commemorate this 235th year of America's independence, it wasn't what was said or heard this Fourth of July that spoke volumes.

While paying respects to a fallen Marine, it was the salutes, tears and pride that left the lasting impressions.

"Selfish is a perfect word," said former Marine Dennis Reynolds. "Everybody is out running around, celebrating, having a good time, drinking and carrying on and the family is going what they are going through."

Monday morning, the body of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Ralph Pate arrived at the General Aviation Terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Along with about 100 people, Reynolds and his family came to the procession to honor Pate, 29, who was killed in action on June 26th during a combat operation in Afghanistan. Pate was due to come home in September.

Tears flowed behind the former Marine's sunglasses as he watched Pate's escort pass in front of the terminal a little after 11 a.m. "The few minutes we gave up today is nothing compared to the ultimate sacrifice he gave for us."

Pate's body is being taken to the Richardson Funeral Home in Marion.

His family says he always wanted to be a Marine ever since he was a boy.

Pate is survived by his wife and two children, ages 8 and 10.

"I know what it's like to be children to a military member. It's scary," said US Air Force Airmen Shaun Kline. Kline called this 4th the most special he's ever had. "To be out here honoring a fallen hero that is out here protecting not only my freedom but everyone else's is an honor in itself."

Pate had been deployed overseas several times serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, 2006, and 2008 and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009 and 2011.

"Welcome home my brother. It's been a long time coming, but he's home," said Retired Army Soldier John Czerwinski. He saluted the man he never met because Czerwinski says Pate wrote a blank check to us with his life as the payment. "All gave some. Some gave all. He(Pate) gave all."

The memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 6th, at Mullins High School. The burial will be at a later date in the Arlington National Cemetery.