Some brought yellow roses, a floral tribute to a fallen warrior, as they came Tuesday to mourn Minnesota National Guard First Lt. Jason Timmerman.
Others pinned green ribbons to their lapels in support of Timmerman's unit, the 151st Field Artillery based in Montevideo.
All who walked through the doors at the Church of the Holy Redeemer brought a heavy heart.
"You never think you'll lose anyone from southwest Minnesota," said Mary Wyffels, a Minneota, Minn., woman who knows Timmerman's parents. "It was just like your whole world came to end for a while when you first heard about it."
On Tuesday, more than 1,500 people jammed the brick church in Marshall to bid farewell to Timmerman, a 24-year-old Tracy, Minn., man who was one of three Minnesotans to die Feb. 21 in Iraq, when a bomb detonated near their stopped military convoy.
Timmerman's funeral was the first of the three services scheduled for the men, all of whom had ties to western Minnesota. It was as if life in Marshall ground to a halt as people bid farewell to him.
The former math teacher graduated from high school just up Hwy. 23 in Cottonwood.
Parked cars lined the quiet side streets of Marshall for blocks. People lined up five deep waiting to get in to the church. Space was even tight in a downstairs overflow room as mourners settled
for watching the services on closed-circuit TVs that barely worked.
"This is one of the biggest funerals I've ever seen here," said Jim Muchlinski, a member of the Marshall American Legion Honor Guard.
The basement TVs had a fuzzy picture and muddy sound. That coupled with the small screens had many straining and squinting to catch anything from the service upstairs.
Not one person left.
"Everyone sat there reverently," said Dale Schroeder, another member of the Marshall American Legion Honor Guard.
Timmerman, who worked at North Star Insurance Co. in Cottonwood, was remembered as a man of faith who had a deep love for his country.
A flag made of red, white and blue flowers sat near his casket in the church. Country singer Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" rang forth as Timmerman's casket passed by the pews for the last time.
Outside, olive-jacketed National Guard members formed a neat green line from the church door to the waiting hearse. With their white-gloved hands, they snapped a brisk, final salute to Timmerman's casket.
The military pageantry continued at the cemetery 6 miles away in tiny Green Valley. A thunderous fly-by of military helicopters buffeted the tall evergreens separating cemetery grass from the surrounding farm fields. Taps played as his widow, Teresa Timmerman, and family and friends gathered graveside.
Chris Ahlschlager, whose wife is one of Timmerman's cousins, said Timmerman's loss will be felt for a long time.
"He was just an outstanding citizen," Ahlschlager said. Whoever planted the bombs "took away a future leader of southwest Minnesota."
Juan Esparza, who knows Timmerman's mother, felt the same way.
"He had a good career. He was a good guy," Esparza said. "It's a big loss for this area."
Ina Wojahn, who brought yellow roses for Timmerman's casket, took comfort in knowing that he died with honor. Still, Timmerman's death and the loss of two other men with ties to the area is hard.
"It really hit home, you know?" said Wojahn, who said she's praying more than ever for other soldiers' safe return.
Muchlinski, Schroeder and other American Legion Honor Guard members were troubled, too, by the loss of the three young men and thought back to their own time in uniform long ago.
Clarence Engler, a Honor Guard member from Marshall, remembered when two of his cousins from the area were killed five days apart fighting the Japanese in World War II.
"It happens," Engler said, shaking his gray-haired head.
Engler, Schroeder and the other blue-jacketed Honor Guardsmen stood by solemnly as Timmerman's lengthy funeral cortege got underway.
They were glad for Timmerman's family that there had been such an outpouring of support.
"I've never seen a funeral like this before," Schroeder said. But at the same time, "I hope I won't see another."
Jill Burcum is at firstname.lastname@example.org.