NORTH ADAMS -- Thousands lined Route 2, from Greenfield to the city, on Wednesday, paying their respects as a motorcade carrying U.S. Army Pfc. Michael DeMarsico II returned him to his hometown.
The motorcade, which included escorts from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, the state police and the North Adams Police Department, as well as members of the Patriot Guard Riders, began at Westover Air Force Base.
DeMarsico, 20, died Aug. 16 from injuries sustained from an enemy improvised explosive device while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Panjwai, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Calling hours, at Flynn & Dagnoli Funeral Home, West Chapels on West Main Street, will be held Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. Funeral services will take place Saturday at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church on Main Street.
Among those attending in the city were sisters Mary Scanlon and Lisa Vanderburgh, who had known DeMarsico as a young child and had watched him grow up over the years.
"I've known Mike since he was very young. He and his family were neighbors of my parents up at Mohawk Forest," Scanlon said. "We just got to know the family very well and just watched him grow up. I just wanted to be here to support them and show them how proud of him we are. It's very emotional [to be here]. I can only imagine what his parents are going through, but I'm sure they can take some comfort in knowing that this community is here for them."
She said that even as a young boy, DeMarsico planned on joining the Army.
"That's just what he always had his heart set on," she said. "He was always out playing soldier and he wanted to be a state trooper when he got out of the Army. That's just the type of person he was."
Vanderburgh, who graduated from high school with DeMarsico's father, said even though the day was very emotional for many attending, she was pleased to see so many turn out to support the family.
"The turnout is fabulous. It's nice to see that we can come together as a community," she said. "It's what we do here. When someone is down and out, we come together to support them."
State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who was among the many state and local officials who turned out for the procession, said he was pleased to see so many come out, not just in the city, but as far away as Greenfield.
"I think its a fitting tribute to someone who gave more than any of us could ever put into words, for the freedoms that we have and that we enjoy," he said. "I think it just says a lot about this community and this region. It's just another reminder of why this is such a special place."
Among the crowds of supporters were many local veterans who came to pay their respect.
Former Massachusetts Army National Guard Specialist Alan Richards, who served with the 747th Military Police Co. out of Ware, described the event as "very emotional," noting how he had lost several friends in Iraq.
"It's very, very hard to put into words. [DeMarsico] definitely made the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "To say that my heart aches for the family isn't enough. It goes beyond words."
World War II veteran Clement St. Hilaire, a member of American Legion Post No. 152 in Adams, said he attended many similar functions when he returned home from war.
"It's an honor to be here because of what he did for us and for our freedom," he said.
Vietnam-era veteran Jeffrey Lefebvre, of Adams, added, "It's very sad. You won't see a dry eye here. My heart goes out to the family. It's so sad to lose someone so young."