Memorial Day weekend will always have more meaningful significance for the friends and family of Pfc. Richard Lewis McNulty, III.
Just one day ahead of the holiday weekend, Rolla residents came out by the hundreds to line Highway 63 in a somber tribute to their fallen soldier.
McNulty, a soccer star and a 2008 graduate of Rolla High School, died while fighting the War on Terror in Afghanistan on May 13.
His flag-draped casket was flown into Rolla National Airport shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday before being escorted to Null and Son Funeral Home by members of the Patriot Guard, dozens of area law enforcement, fire department and military vehicles.
Once at the funeral home, only the steady wind and flapping of american flags could be heard as his casket was carried into the building by fellow military members. The Patriot Guard stood at attention around the area, saluting the fallen soldier before the private funeral services for friends and family.
The 22-year-old from Rolla was a member of the military police — a post his recruitment officer said he was eager to take on when recruited. Back home in Rolla he was also a son, a brother, a husband and an expectant father.
His wife, Hannah (Burns) McNulty, is due to give birth to their first child — a daughter, Ella — at the end of June. McNulty was scheduled to come home to Missouri for the birth of their child, according to his brother, Shaun McNulty.
In addition to his wife, he leaves behind his parents, Edward McNulty and Debbie Leach; his brother, Shaun McNulty; and sisters Amy Cormier, Shannon McNulty, Lisa McNulty and Katy McNulty.
Those lining the streets of Rolla Thursday morning regarded him as a hero. They ranged from two-year-olds with a sippy cup in one hand and a flag in the other to 70-year-olds with war memories of their own.
On one street corner veterans of three different wars, the Korean War, Desert Storm and Iraq gathered together, each proudly displaying a salute as the hearse carrying McNulty's body passed.
City of Rolla shut down the busy highway to allow the cortege to pass through and allow the mass of people a chance to pay their respects.
Rolla Fire and Rescue Department and Rolla Rural Fire Protection District came together for a special tribute to the soldier. The two departments hoisted a giant American flag between their ladder trucks over Highway 63. The hearse drove beneath this symbol of freedom just a few moments before arriving at the funeral home.