COEUR d'ALENE - When Spc. Nicholas Newby returned home, his town was waiting.
More than 200 packed the sidewalk fronting Lake City High School on Friday afternoon to honor the funeral procession for Newby, a fallen National Guard soldier and Coeur d'Alene son. Children waved signs while teenagers, only a few years of life decisions away from Newby's 20, craned their necks to catch a glimpse.
A collective hush fell on the crowd as hundreds of motorcycles, all seated with veterans, led in Newby's family.
Although his parents were separated from the throng in their cars, and though Newby himself was tucked away in a gleaming hearse, the procession felt intimate.
"It's the ultimate sacrifice," said veteran Richard Shutts, extending a hefty American flag. "I wish
more Americans would stand in such support and honor."
Newby was one of two fallen National Guard soldiers from Coeur d'Alene whose remains were flown home on Friday.
Newby and Sgt. Nathan Beyers, 24, both of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, were killed in Iraq by an improvised explosive device last week, when insurgent forces attacked their convoy.
Both were honored on Friday in processions leading to separate funeral homes.
For Newby, it was a 2,500-mile trip from the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to the Pappy Boyington Field Airport, where the charter plane touched down in early afternoon.
Family members were escorted planeside to place their hands on the casket, draped with an American flag, while a chaplain murmured a few words. Then the white gloves of National Guard soldiers gripped the casket and stepped it from the plane to the awaiting hearse.
The event symbolized the transfer of the young man from Army to kin, from family in arms to family of blood.
When the crowd at Lake City High School saw the flashing lights of the procession's police escort, parents called their children to the front and placed flags in their hands.
Some folks held up signs reading "Thank You" and others held candles. Veterans raised their hands in salute.
Kayla Mills, who had gone to school with Newby at Lake City High School, teared up when she spoke of his sacrifice.
"It's hard. He was so young," said Mills, 21. "I'm just thankful. I think a lot of people take it for granted."
He was popular, she remembered, an easy and energetic kid.
"I know a lot of people liked him," she said. "He was a really happy guy."
Kristina Bednarek, a friend and a former coworker of Theresa Hart, Newby's mother, borrowed a neighbor's flag for the event.
Bednarek felt connected to the young man, she said, after watching him grow up through his mother's stories and photos.
"This was her worst fear," Bednarek said. "I still remember her standing in my cubicle, telling me he was going to do this. But it was what he wanted to do. He was committed and so brave."
The remains of Beyers, who was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant, were flown from Dover to the Spokane Airport earlier on Friday, then transported to a Spokane funeral home.
His plane was greeted by 60 soldiers from the Fairchild Air Force Base, said Col. Tim Marsano, National Guard spokesman.
"They (Beyers' family) were touched. I could see that they were," Marsano said.
Pam Katus, part of the crowd at Lake City High School, remembered Beyers from gatherings of National Guard soldiers at her home, hosted by her husband, a first sergeant.
"Nathan just really wanted to be a good daddy," Katus said with watering eyes, adding that Beyers' first child was born while he was deployed. "It's bittersweet. They (Beyers and Newby) are getting the honor they deserve, but it's tragic."
Sgt. Jonathan Daniells, who served with Beyers and Newby, said it is always hard to see fellow soldiers fall.
"It could've been me," said Daniells, who wasn't overseas during the attack because of disability. "Believe it or not, in serving, we actually became a family. You get excited when you're around everybody."
A memorial service for the two soldiers is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Lake City Community Church. A funeral Mass for Beyers will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Spokane. Newby's funeral is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at Lake City Community Church.
Tara Hite wiped away tears after Newby's procession. Her husband, Tony, said their son, Nick Hite, serves in the same unit and had been in a truck near Newby's during last week's attack.
"(At first) we heard it was just a couple of soldiers from here - we didn't know if it was ours," Tony said.
"I feel guilty that our Nick's OK," Tara said, adding that the news about Newby and Beyers was devastating. "All I could do was cry."
They're both all the more worried about their own son now, they acknowledged, who is still serving in Iraq.
But they were equally grateful to see so many honor soldiers that day.
"Seeing this, having a couple boys from our town, I think it brings everything going on over there to light here," Tony said. "It's not just something you pick up on the news while you're flipping channels. This makes it real."
The hearse carrying the body of Spc. Nicholas Newby drives under a flag hung from a Coeur d'Alene Fire Department ladder truck Friday as a procession leads the soldier's body to Yates Funeral Home in midtown.
Danny Brum embraces an emotional Corbie Doty as they watch a procession honoring fallen Army National Guard soldier Spc. Nicholas W. Newby.
Honor guard members carry the body of Sgt. Nathan R. Beyers to a hearse at the Spokane International Airport on Friday.
The Idaho Army National Guard Honor Guard carries the casket of Spc. Nicholas W. Newby during a honorable transfer ceremony on the tarmac of the Coeur d'Alene Airport.
Honor guard members await the arrival of the body of Sgt. Nathan R. Beyers at the Spokane International Airport on Friday.