American flags of every condition lined Airport Drive Saturday as Spc. Antonio Moore came home for the final time.
Some of those waving in the chilly wind and rain were miniature flags that still had the creases in them from being unfurled for the first time just hours earlier. Some were big American flags affixed to pick-up trucks or stretched out by multiple hands to hold them steady. Others were clearly weather-worn American flags unmounted from front porches just to come pay respect.
Moore, a 22-year-old Wilmington resident, was on his first deployment in eastern Syria with the U.S. Army Reserves, when he was killed in a rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations.
Just after noon on Saturday, his body arrived at the Wilmington International Airport, the first stop on a final procession through his hometown. Hundreds of people gathered along the tarmac as the plane landed, ready to greet Moore. Thousands more waited at various points along the procession route across the city.
After his casket was delicately off-loaded from the plane, his family formed a circle around it and his mother took a moment to drape herself over it to embrace her son the best she could.
Leading out of the airport, families, friends, groups and individuals clustered along the roadside to honor the fallen soldier.
Bill Morgan with the American Legion Post 543 in St. James said he felt it is the duty of veterans to come out and pay tribute to Moore's service.
"We are out here to honor a fallen soldier," he said, flanked by 25 or so fellow veterans from the chapter. "It is a wonderful thing when people come by and thank us for our service. But he has fallen in service of our country on active duty, and one of the most appropriate things citizens and, particularly, we as veterans can do, is to honor that service and sacrifice -- even in the cold and the rain."
From the airport, Moore's procession, led by the Wilmington Police Department and several local motorcycle organizations including the Buffalo Soldiers, traveled to Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway before cutting over to South College Road.
The ladder of a Wilmington Fire Department truck hung an American flag over the busy roadway at New Centre Drive, which was brought to a near standstill. Along the route, hundreds of residents stopped their cars to get out and salute Moore or simply stand in silent solidarity.
The procession passed Katy's Bar and Grill, where he worked as a line cook, and Hoggard High School, where he graduated in 2016.
At the latter location, the procession was met by hundreds more people and a massive American flag hung over the road by a crane. From there, the family and the hearse made a final stop at Wilmington Funeral and Cremation.
Efforts to line the streets with residents began to mobilize in full force on Friday, primarily on social media. Facebook groups shared the procession route and information, and asked people to come out rather they knew Moore or not.
Local groups, including the New Hanover County NAACP, handed out free American flags and yellow ribbons until late Friday to encourage as many people as possible to show up in support of Moore's family.
A viewing for Moore will be held 3-6 p.m. Monday at Wilmington Funeral and Cremation, located at 1535 S. 41st St.
The funeral will be held at noon Tuesday at Union Missionary Baptist Church, 2711 Princess Place Drive.
Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered all flags on state property remain at half mast to honor Moore until after his funeral on Tuesday.
This article is written by Hunter Ingram from Star-News, Wilmington, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.