A public funeral service was held at Forest Lawn Covina Hills Sunday for Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, who was among 13 service members killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Merola’s flag-draped coffin was brought to the platform beneath the cemetery’s Great Mausoleum by a Marine honor guard, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.
More than a dozen speakers remembered him as larger than life, a man who was mature beyond his years.
His mother, Cheryl Rex, spoke last. She said that during the past month, she relied on her son’s spirit to get her through her grief, the paper reported.
“You will continue to shine down on us,” Rex told the assembled mourners. “Giving hope and courage until we meet again. Dylan, I love you so much. I know you will always be right by my side.”
His commander, Capt. Jeff Ball, praised Merola for his courage and his service.
“We need Marines who just keep going even when faced with the chaos and the madness,” Ball said. “We needed him on Aug. 26 doing the job he was meant to do and saving lives in the process”
Country signer Coffey Anderson performed at the funeral, singing “Mr. Red, White and Blue” and “Amazing Grace.”
Merola’s remains were carried in a procession Tuesday from Ontario International Airport and through the streets of his hometown of Rancho Cucamonga, in San Bernardino County — including a pass by his alma mater, Los Osos High School, eventually arriving at Forest Lawn in preparation for Sunday’s service.
Thousands of people lined sidewalks and freeway overpasses along the procession route, many of them holding American flags.
“It’s a sad day,” Upland resident Mark Bertone told NBC4. “I have a son who spent eight years of his life in and out of Afghanistan. Part of me feels blessed that I still have him with me.”
Merola, 20, died Aug. 26 in the attack at Kabul Airport that also killed 10 other Marines, a U.S. Navy corpsman and a U.S. Army soldier, along with more than 100 Afghanis.
Two other Southland Marines — Lance Cpl. Kareem Grant Nikoui, 20, of Norco, and Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio — also died in the attack.
“You got these young kids — 19, 20, 21 years old, they show up to work to help over a hundred thousand people escape the tyranny of the Taliban and they’re gone,” Bertone said.
The public funeral service for Merola was followed by a private burial service.