U.S. Marine Sgt. Christopher Hrbek will get his wish: When he returned from Afghanistan, he told loved ones, he wanted the streets of Westwood decked in American flags.
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Hrbek, 25, couldn’t have imagined that his remains would be brought through town on Thursday from Dover Air Force base, that countless flags would be waving as they lay in state at a local church, and that an extended community would be mourning his sudden, shocking death.
A procession will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Third Avenue Bridge near the Ketler school, which the Marine and volunteer firefighter attended. It will work its way through town toward Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Hrbek’s family will receive visitors at the church from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday. He’ll be interred Saturday at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus following a 9 a.m. service at the church.
Hrbek’s remains were flown to Dover from Afghanistan on Saturday. Two days earlier, he was killed when he stepped on a hidden device that exploded. (See: Bergen Marine killed in Afghanistan.)
Everyone in town is expected to fly the Stars and Stripes in honor of the hometown hero.
Sadly, the church had been preparing a hero’s welcome. (See: Hero’s welcome was already planned.)
Hrbek, who leaves a 23-year-old wife, Jamie, was about to be awarded a Bronze Star for saving his sergeant major — who, like him, stepped on an IED while under fire just before Christmas.
Hrbek was scheduled to return home in May after three tours of duty in Iraq three times, first in 2005, and then a hitch in Afghanistan that began only in November.
He was an artillery cannoneer assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he made several friends and became a fan of the Carolina Panthers NFL team.Hrbek’s remains arrive in Dover on Saturday (AP PHOTO)
Hrbek’s family asked that memorial gifts be made, in lieu of flowers, to Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, KS 66675-8517 or Sgt. Christopher R. Hrbek, USMC Scholarship Fund, c/o Pascack Community Bank, 21 Jefferson Avenue, Westwood, NJ 07675.
For more information: Becker Funeral Home, Westwood, NJ, 201-664-0292.
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