DESHLER, Ohio - Hundreds of relatives, friends, and military personnel yesterday packed Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church here to capacity and filled tents on the church grounds to mourn the loss of Lt. Col. Kevin Sonnenberg of McClure, Ohio.
Colonel Sonnenberg, a pilot with the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing based at Toledo Express Airport, was killed June 15 when the F-16 fighter jet he was flying crashed in Iraq.
The single-seat fighter was on a mission to support ground forces. The cause is under investigation, Air Force officials said.
The large number of people at the ceremony to show their respect and grief at Colonel Sonnenberg's death is emblematic of the closeness of the community in Henry County.
About 600 people flooded the church grounds for the funeral service.
The church was not large enough to seat them all, so about 200 people were accommodated in tents on the church lawn, where the service was broadcast.
The funeral procession traveled eight miles from the church to Hockman Cemetery in McClure, where military officials of varying ranks waited to participate in the traditional military burial service.
On the way, the procession passed through parts of McClure, where residents, in preparation for the funeral, had decorated the streets.
American flags fluttered from almost every porch and utility pole en route to the cemetery.
Minutes before the motorcade passed, firefighters worked to hang a large flag over an intersection in honor of Colonel Sonnenberg.
The graveside ceremonies were steeped in military tradition.
The majority of the eight pallbearers were Colonel Sonnenberg's fellow fighter pilots.
With the presentation of the Bronze Star Award, the crowd was asked to rise for the rendering of military honors.
Seven service members fired three volleys, signifying the dead in battle have been properly cared for.
After a bugler sounded "Taps," four aircraft performed a missing-man formation with one aircraft pulling up and away, signifying the loss of a comrade in arms.
The services concluded with the folding of the American flag.
The Sonnenberg family declined to talk with the media and requested that media be kept at a considerable distance from all funeral and burial services.
Members of the media were not allowed to interview or quote funeral attendees.41.20683 -83.90098