Thanks in large part to organizers on Facebook and the Patriot Guard Riders, the Fayetteville Observer reports that Sgt. Donna Johnson received an emotional and dignified funeral Saturday, Oct. 13, with full military honors. Johnson was killed with two other soldiers in a suicide attack on Oct. 1 in Afghanistan. Johnson's spouse, Tracy Joe Dice, attended the funeral, which was protested by the antigay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). Members of the American Military Partners Association were also there to honor Johnson and support Dice. Please note in this WTVD piece how a WBC member drags the American flag on the ground in contrast to the hundreds of flags flying to honor Johnson.
The people came to stand between protesting members of the Westboro Baptist Church and the family in mourning.
The Kansas-based congregation pickets military funerals nationwide because church leaders say soldiers' deaths are God's vengeance for the country's tolerance of homosexuality.
Raeford Police Chief Kemp Crumpler estimated an overall 1,000 to 1,500 outside the Raeford Presbyterian Church. Among them were some 175 Army National Guard soldiers dressed in crisp Army service uniforms. But Marines, Navy SEALs and Army soldiers also mixed in with the crowd.
Crumpler reported a minor scuffle between a Navy SEAL and four church protesters, but no arrests were made.
"To see the community come together - it's breathtaking," Rivera said. "I've never seen our community like this. She died an American hero, and that's the way she deserved to be buried."
Video after the break.