Plainwell soldier laid to rest at Fort Custer

Updated: Friday, February 8 2013, 01:15 PM EST
Plainwell soldier laid to rest at Fort Custer story image
OTSEGO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A West Michigan fallen hero has been laid to rest.

Sgt. Mark Schoonhoven died last month, one month after getting struck by an IED in Afghanistan. He'd been with the army seven years and had traveled there on multiple tours of duty. He leaves behind a wife and six children.

Today, the community paid tribute to the Plainwell native, with a beautiful funeral and procession.

"It's very difficult for them, and this fallen soldier deserves to be buried in peace and dignity and his family needs to see that, that people care. We didn't know him, but we support him. He's an American," said Sharon Gilmore, who lives in Kalamazoo.

Gilmore stood outside St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Otsego with pride and patriotism today, among hundreds there to honor a fallen soldier.

"We just have that bond you know. We're just a small town in the Midwest, but we care," said Chris Newland, an Otsego native.

Newland wants Sgt. Schoonhoven's family to know, his hometown supports the Plainwell native 100 percent.

"They're the oldest football rivalry in the state, but the rivalry ends when it comes to something like this," he said.

Stars and stripes lined the procession route, two thousand flags waving in the snow.

"It just it chokes you up, you can't help but feel something with all of those flags so close together, all the way through to the city limits. It's just amazing," said Gilmore.

"It didn't snow the whole time until right when they were driving out," said Crystal Walker, whose husband is a veteran. "It was pretty amazing."

It was a beautiful drive all the way to Ft. Custer National Cemetery in Battle Creek, where Schoonhoven's friends and family laid him to rest with full military honors.

"This is the worst nightmare. This is the worst case scenario, is that you get that phone call saying the worst has happened," said Necole Wesaw, whose husband is also a veteran. "He paid the ultimate sacrifice, and so did they."

"The grief they're going to carry, the parents and the little kids and everything, the rest of their lives...to see support, to see the flags, to know that complete strangers were willing to come out, this will stay with them for the rest of their lives, and this will give their comfort to know they're not alone," said Gilmore.
Plainwell soldier laid to rest at Fort Custer
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