DENHAM SPRINGS – Soldiers, sailors and Marines escorted Keagan Stoan Furlong to his boyhood home Friday.
They also placed American flags along the route his hearse followed to Seale Funeral Home.
They didn’t know him, but that didn’t matter. He wore the uniform of the U.S Army; that was good enough.
“Our mission is to do this,” said Roland “Blade” Sanchez, the ride captain with the Patriot Guard Riders.
The retired U.S. Coast Guardsman said his nonprofit group provides “dignity and respect at memorial services” to active-duty military personnel, veterans, first responders, firefighters or police.
“Most are veterans, not all; most ride bikes, not all,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez and five other Patriot Guard Riders escorted the hearse from the New Orleans airport to Denham Springs, led by Furlong’s father, Jonathan, he said.
Keagan Stoan Furlong, 22, died May 7 at University Hospital in Columbia, Mo.
He was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, where he was undergoing training as part of his National Guard service.
A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday at Seale Funeral Home.
Furlong was born in Baton Rouge on Jan. 12, 1997, to Jonathan Furlong and Monica Parker, his obituary said.
At the age of 16, Keagan and his dad moved to Mountain View, Ark., where he attended high school and played football and baseball.
He graduated from Mountain View High School in 2016 and attended National Park College in Hot Springs, Ark., before he made the decision to enlist in the National Guard.
His obituary said Furlong was “a giving young man and his giving continues, as his donation of organs and tissues will save the lives of five people and touch the lives of many, many more.”
The Patriot Guard Riders were called Thursday, according to Sid Gale, who helped set up the American flags.
“The funeral home gives us the information,” said Gale, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War with the “Purple Foxes” of Helicopter Squadron 364.
“Those who are able to come show up. We’re all volunteers,” he said.
Gale and his group lined up under the driveway of the funeral home. When the hearse pulled up, they were joined by the motorcycle escort.
“Attention. Hand salute,” was the crisp order given.
The solemn nature of their role was not lost on Army veteran Gale Cummins, of Walker.
“This is a sad situation,” Cummins said, “but we’re glad to do it for an active-duty soldier.”
Cummins reflected on the 15 jumps he made with the 82nd Airborne in the late ’80s – and the 16th when his parachute didn’t open, leaving him with a broken back, pelvis and closed brain injury.
He later survived a burst appendix, making Cummins think, “There’s a purpose for me being here.”
“I saw people along the street with flags in their truck. That was good,” he said.