Washburn, WI (NNCNOW.com) - Bayfield resident Lynne "Joey" Weber says it's hard to forget the larger than life smile that Merlin Allen always wore through the halls of their high school.
Allen was two years ahead of Weber "but I remember him well. He was a fun kid—big smile all the time," said Weber as she stood in front of the Washburn grocery store Wednesday. "He had a crush on my older sister, and he asked her one time 'can I give you a kiss,' and she said, 'oh, I guess.' So he ran up and gave her a kiss on the cheek and then took off running," she added, laughing.
Weber was one of many who lined the streets of Washburn, flags in hand, eager to catch Lance Corporal Allen's motorcade as it drove through town to the Bratley Funeral Home—the final stretch of a 126 mile journey starting in Minneapolis—headed by Minnesota and Wisconsin's Patriot Guard Riders.
"It represents that there's one more of our boys home—one more we took care of," said Senior Ride Captain Ed Bergey. "It comes from in here—we do this out of the gratitude of our hearts."
Last June, and after two failed attempts, a Marine recovery team finally discovered his remains at the helicopter crash site in Vietnam. They were then transported to Hawaii, where they were met last week by their official escort Gunnery Sergeant Jeremy Gehrke.
"It took 46 years to bring Lance Corporal Merlin Allen home," said Gunnery Sergeant Gehrke, "and the Marines won't stop until they bring everyone home."
They then met Staff Sergeant Robin Sollman and the Honor Guard in Minneapolis, who prepared Allen's remains for their trek up Highway 70, through Hayward.
"All kinds of people lined up by the dealership to show their support. It was a very humbling experience," said Staff Sergeant Sollman.
Though Allen's sister Marilyn Allen-Neff says it's a bittersweet closure for her family, those who showed their support Wednesday are keeping his memory alive.
"They touched are hearts—they touched our hearts. It makes us feel that my brother has never been forgotten—that he's always been remembered," said Allen-Neff outside of the Brately Funeral Home, reiterating that handmade "Thank You's" would be coming out in the mail sometime soon.
...ensuring no fallen soldier is ever forgotten.
A visitation for Lance Corporal Merlin Allen will be held Friday, from 6 to 8 PM, at the Bratley Funeral Home. His funeral will be held at the Bayfield High School Gymnasium on Saturday.
The public is invited to both events.
Lance Corporal Allen will be buried by his parents on York Island.
- Posted to the web by Billy Wagness