WINDSOR — Army Sgt. Chris Birdwell returned home Wednesday morning as Windsor residents paid their respects by holding American flags and bowing their heads.
The motorcade that carried the body of Birdwell in a black hearse began at the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport, passed through Windsor at Eastman Park Drive and ended at Marks Funeral & Cremation Service on the east side of Windsor.
Birdwell, 25, was killed in action on Aug. 27 in Kalagush, Afghanistan, by enemy small-arms fire. He was a 2005 graduate of Windsor High School who was serving his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Word got out Wednesday morning that the motorcade — which included Patriot Guard Riders with American flags waving from their rear-view mirrors, police and military officials — was scheduled to pass through Eastman Park Drive around 11:30 a.m.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Susan Kelly, a Windsor resident who held up a large American flag with her left hand and placed her right hand over her heart as the motorcade passed by. “I have a son in the Marines. We’re losing our best. We really are. This brings it home. My heart breaks for that family, and obviously they raised a wonderful child.”
Her son, Daniel, graduated in 2011 from Windsor High School.
Tara Peterson of Windsor said she heard about the motorcade at the last minute from a friend and had a need to pay tribute.
“I just felt like I could certainly take 15 minutes out of my life to honor the life of a fallen soldier,” Peterson said. “It hits close to home. It’s such a huge sacrifice for someone so young to be willing to serve our country in that way. I’m eternally grateful for people like him that are willing to serve and give us our freedom.”
Donna James of Windsor held a small American flag as the motorcade passed.
“It’s always heartbreaking when America loses one of its finest,” James said. “My husband was a soldier for 11 years, and it hits close to home. If our presence here can bring some small measure of comfort to their family, I hope we did.”
A memorial service will be held for Birdwell at Fort Carson Army Base at noon today. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Resurrection Fellowship Church, 6502 E. Crossroads Blvd., in Loveland. Birdwell will be laid to rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver after the funeral service.