Residents turn out to pay respects to fallen Marine

MARIETTA – A young Marine killed while training returned home to Marietta Wednesday, with an escort from the Patriot Guard Riders and hundreds of area residents lining Pike Street to pay their respects.

Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Taylor, 21, died March 18, one of seven Marines killed by a mortar shell explosion during a training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada.

“I wanted to show his family and him if he’s looking down that we appreciate his sacrifices. I hope that it helps the family with the grieving process,” said Laura Bays-Flowers, 48, of Parkersburg.

Like many of those filling Pike Street from the Interstate 77 exit ramp to Hadley Funeral Home, Bays-Flowers had never met Taylor, but wanted to show her support in any way possible. She brought her American flag from home and waved it as Taylor’s processional drove by.

The Marietta High School graduate had served two overseas tours of duty – one in Afghanistan and one in Kuwait – and was preparing to serve another tour in Afghanistan, said his grandfather, Lowell resident Larry Stephens, 62.

“Josh was proud of his country. He’d wanted to be a Marine since he was 5. I don’t know where he got the idea,” said Stephens on Wednesday.

Perhaps there was a Marine Taylor looked up to the way 8-year-old Austin Harrow looks up to Taylor.

“This was his idea. He made us come,” said Austin’s mother Missy Harrow, 40, tears welling in her eyes, as she stood on Pike Street.

Austin heard about Taylor’s death on the news and insisted the family come.

“He was really upset that a local soldier had died,” said Missy.

Austin said he wants to be a Marine when he grows up.

Taylor is the son of Jennifer and Robert Collins of Marietta and has three sisters and a brother. A 2010 Marietta High School graduate, Taylor was set to marry his high school sweetheart, Abbey Malone of Marietta, on May 11.

Taylor’s best friend, who was going to be his best man in the upcoming wedding, was also one of the young men who died in the explosion, said Stephens.

Marietta resident Kevin A. Corp, 20, was good friends with Taylor and so when Malone walked into his work place a few weeks ago, he introduced himself.

“You should have seen how excited she was to get married. It is just heartbreaking,” said Corp, who stood along the roadway Wednesday to honor his friend.

Malone’s cousin, Abby Morgan, 17, of Beverly, who was part of the crowd of supporters as Taylor was returned home, remembered how seamlessly Taylor fit into the family.

“My best memory with him is when we went to Cedar Point together. He was really polite,” she said.

Seeing the crowd that turned out for Taylor and the family, “shows how supportive we are as a small community,” said Morgan.

Even out-of-towners wanted to pay their respects.

Bloomington, Ind., resident Lance Brewer saw the Comfort Inn sign, which flashed the message “Some gave all” and Taylor’s name and decided to show his support.

“I saw the sign and I said ‘This is something I need to do,'” said Brewer, who was in Marietta on a business trip.

The outpouring of support has been greatly appreciated, said Stephens.

“We’re glad to get him home and we’re very proud of his service,” he said.

Keith Malone, the father of Taylor’s fiancee, said many people stopped along the highway to salute as Taylor’s body was brought home from Port Columbus International Airport Wednesday evening.

“People were lining most of the overpasses on the interstate on I-77. All of us were very emotionally touched. He was a hometown Marine. We felt they honored our families, Josh, and their country,” he said.

Taylor was escorted by an honor guard consisting of The Ohio State Highway Patrol, motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard Riders, and local authorities in every county he traveled through. In Caldwell the procession was joined by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Marietta Police Department.

Public visitation will be at Hadley Funeral Home Reno Chapel, 1021 Pike St., on Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will take place in the Marietta High School auditorium with full military honors on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Burial will follow at Mound Cemetery, the final resting place of veterans dating back to the Revolutionary War.

“The city of Marietta has been good enough to find a spot in Mound Cemetery for us even though it’s been closed for years,” said Stephens.

The burial will mean there will be no parking on Fifth Street from Putnam to Wooster Street Saturday morning and afternoon to accommodate the large procession expected to arrive at the cemetery following the funeral, said Marietta City Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

Residents that usually park on the street are asked to move their vehicles to alleys, side streets or garages, he said.

Hupp said residents should expect to hear gunfire Saturday as a 21-gun salute will be performed in honor of Taylor.