01/26/10 — A hero's farewell

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A hero's farewell

By Steve Herring And Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 26, 2010 1:46 PM

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Brothers Colby Phillip, 7, left, and Dylan Phillip, 6, wave their flags as they await the start of Monday's funeral procession for Tech. Sgt. Adam Ginett.

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Members of the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Honor Guard transfer the casket of Tech. Sgt. Adam Ginett Monday afternoon. Ginnet, of Knightdale, died Jan. 19 near Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device.

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The family of Tech. Sgt. Adam Ginett, from right, James Kazakavage, Christina Kazakavage and James Haslam, watches the dignified transfer of the airman's remains Monday afternoon at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

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Local motorcyclists escorted the hearse bearing the remains of Tech Sgt. Ginett as it headed to the highway to travel to services in Knightdale.

Dylan and Colby Phillip had a hard time standing still as they waited along Berkeley Boulevard, just outside the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base gates, with American flags in hand.

They are, after all, only 6 and 7 years old.

But when the motorcade carrying a fallen airmen made its way past dozens of Wayne County residents scattered on the side of the road that leads from the installation to the highway, the boys remembered what their father, James, had taught them.

"My dad helped us to (learn to) salute and other things," Colby said.

"Someone died," his brother added. "And I was sad."

The boys were among those who turned out Monday afternoon to honor a man they had never met -- but one, they say, feels like family because of the uniform he wore when he was killed in Afghanistan.

Tech. Sgt. Adam Ginett, of Knightdale, died Jan. 19 from injuries sustained in an Improvised Explosive Device blast, and his remains passed through Seymour Johnson Monday on their way home.

Jill Baker shed a tear when the hearse -- led by dozens of motorcycles -- crossed the intersection of Berkeley and Ash streets.

"How many more do we have to lose over there?" she said. "First, one of our planes goes down. Now this. It's that much harder when it's this close to home."

Like Dylan and Colby's mother, Sandy, Mrs. Maker thought bringing her son, Thomas, to salute the motorcade would give her an opportunity to explain to her 8-year-old what sacrifice really means.

"I told him, 'This is what happens when talking things out doesn't work,'" she said. "It's a lesson about war, but it's also a lesson about life."

Mrs. Phillip had similar feelings.

After all, her husband just returned from a tour in Afghanistan.

"We just think that it is great idea for the boys to learn what this is all about. Of course, my son thought it was a parade for something fun, so we had to sit him down and explain it wasn't something fun," Mrs. Phillip said. "It is for the memory of someone. So we brought them out so that they could see it, to let them feel that this is what we do when we are a military family and what it is all about and bringing somebody home to rest."

But the image of children pausing to salute and wave flags was only one of many powerful sights seen along Berkeley Monday.

There was Mary Wilkins, who welled up at the sound of motorcycles and shed a tear when Ginett's remains -- and then his family -- passed.

"No family should have to welcome their son home like this," she said. "I mean, I'm sure they did a beautiful job on the base and all, but all our boys should be making it home."

And there was Wesley Harlow, a Vietnam veteran who said he is "almost numb to stuff like this," but came to honor a man he characterized as "a hero."

"This kid, from what I understand, was out there protecting troops from these damn IEDs. That makes him a hero, so it's particularly sad to see that he's gone," the retired solider said. "But in my life, and I'm getting to be an old man, I have seen many of these (homecomings). At least now people are out to say, 'Thanks.' You should have seen the reception some of my buddies got."