LULA — Lula paid its solemn respects to a fallen soldier Saturday, as hundreds came to a small country church to honor Maj. Kevin Jenrette for his ultimate sacrifice.
From the horse-drawn caisson carrying his flag-draped casket to a flyover of military helicopters at graveside, from the strains of bagpipes to the mournful sounds of "Taps," Jenrette's funeral at Timber Ridge Baptist Church carried all the military honors befitting a soldier killed in the line of duty for his country.
Jenrette, 37, was one of three Georgia Army National Guard soldiers killed by a roadside bomb and gunfire on June 4 in Kapisa, Afghanistan. The son of a retired Army colonial, he is survived by his wife of nearly 10 years, Shannon, and three children, ages 7, 5 and 1.
Mourners who packed into the church sanctuary heard Georgia Army National Guard Adjunct General Terry Nesbitt pay tribute to a soldier's soldier.
"Kevin was a great leader," Nesbitt said. "He died doing what leaders do. Kevin didn't have to be where he was. Kevin chose to be there because he was a soldier."
Nesbitt said a few months prior to Jenrette's deployment in Afghanistan, he approached a superior and asked for the assignment.
"He said he felt a need to go and serve in the field with the soldiers," Nesbitt said. "And when he got to Afghanistan, he did what good leaders do. He led from the front."
Jenrette, who was in Afghanistan only three weeks before being killed, was among the first three Georgia Army Guardsmen to die in combat since the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Nesbitt said that the commander of Jenrette's battalion told him that the soldiers who remain in Afghanistan in the wake of the deaths "have more resolve than ever to complete the mission, so he has made an impact."
Jenrette served "with a sense of duty and honor, and now serves as a constant reminder etched in our memories of what is right and good," Nesbitt said.
The Rev Anthony Cook praised Jenrette as a devote father and faithful Christian. "He was ready to make the crossing, and he made the crossing," Cook said.
The Rev. Dean Bryant said the support he has seen the community extend to Jenrette's family surpassed anything he's seen in 59 years of ministry.
In addition to the hundreds of civilians who attended Saturday's funeral, dozens of soldiers in dress uniforms — some former classmates at North Georgia College and State University, others fellow Rangers from nearby Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega — marched behind the casket bearing their friend. Several lined up to pay their respects personally to the family at graveside, after the customary three-round volley was fired by seven riflemen and carefully folded flags were presented to Jenrette's survivors.
Ever-present along the route from the funeral home to the church was the stars and stripes of the American flag.
"He loved his country, he loved his flag," Bryant said. "He loved his freedom. Freedom is wonderful, but freedom has a cost, at a great price. It's a great price that Kevin paid for this great nation, that we might have freedom."