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GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - On a warm, late summer Monday, thousands took time from their day to honor the sacrifice of a Kentwood Navy SEAL killed in action in Afghanistan - and to show support for his family.
David Warsen, 27, of Kentwood, was among seven Americans and four Afghans who died when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed after being shot down by insurgents on Aug. 16.
Before the funeral set for Thursday -- a private final goodbye for just friends, family and the Navy SEALS -- the public got their chance to pay their respects to the fallen hero.
His body returned to West Michigan, and people lined the streets for the procession from the Ford Airport to the Stroo Funeral Home in Cutlerville.
Some knew him. Others knew of him.
"No matter if they know him or not," said Darcy Muller along the procession route, "it means a lot to see the community coming together."
"I've got a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old and I brought them out today just to show respect for the family and for his sacrifice," Renae Port told 24 Hour News 8. "We're forever grateful for what he did for us."
Among those lining the streets were students from Dutton Christian Elementary and Middle Schools.
At a time when many young people define their heroes as the guy who makes millions carrying a ball or the reality star that generates the tabloid headlines, David Warsen represents the real thing.
"I think of heroes as people who go and do something about things that need to be done," said Dutton Christian 8th-grader Ren Bykerk.
Businesses replaced the lettering on their signs, letting his family know they are not alone in their grief.
Warsen graduated from East Kentwood High School in 2005.
At 68th and Hannah Lake, East Kentwood teacher John Bouck paid his respects. He decorated the back of his pick-up truck with an American flag and hand-painted signs honoring Warsen.
"My first year of teaching at East Kentwood, David was one of my students, student athletes," Bouck told 24 Hour News 8. He coached Warsen on a 7th-grade basketball team. "He was one of the smaller kids, but he (had) the biggest heart. He was determined. He would never give up. He would put that extra effort in."
That season, Warsen moved from a back-up to the starting point guard.
"He was my go-to kid," Bouck said. "He could handle the pressure. Not surprised that years later he was a Navy SEAL. What a cool thing."
But Bouck, like many in the community, are heartbroken.
"Words can't speak the feeling I think all of us in the Kentwood community have right now. It's a tremendous loss.
Last week, Warsen's grandfather spoke with 24 Hour News 8. He said one thing he wanted people to know was "Davey's" faith in God. He said his grandson prayed every night -- and his family is thankful he is in Heaven with Jesus.
Warsen was set to marry his fiancé in December.
Visitation for family and friends is scheduled for Aug. 29 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Mars Hill Bible Church, 3501 Fairlanes Ave. SW in Grandville. Funeral services will follow on Aug. 30 at 11 a.m. at the church.
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