Family, friends pay respects to fallen soldier
LORAIN — Outside Admiral King High School, flag bearers from the American Legion’s Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group stood in formation — waving large American flags as a steady procession of friends, family and strangers arrived Tuesday to pay respects to Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes.
Barnes, 20, of Lorain, was killed June 10 by an improvised explosive device while on convoy delivery duty 100 miles south of Baghdad. His body arrived home at Lorain County Regional Airport on Sunday morning.
No one among the motorcycle group ever met Barnes, but member Bob Smith, a Vietnam veteran, said the group takes honor in standing up for those who stood up for them.
“A lot of us are too old to fight, but we can support the family back home,” Smith said. “You don’t have to know a hero to know they are one.”
The location of the visitation and of today’s funeral, which also will be at the high school, is fitting since Barnes graduated from the school in 2004. He had volunteered for a second tour of duty in Iraq in preparation for a career in the military.
On Tuesday, those in uniform, dress attire and street clothes streamed into the high school gymnasium, where members of Barnes’ family stood alongside his casket and met each of those wishing to offer their condolences.
April Sudlow traveled from Cheyenne, Wyo., where she first met Barnes at F.E. Warren Air Force Base just after Barnes enlisted two years ago.
She said although she’s grown accustomed to hearing the playing of Taps whenever the flag is lowered at the end of each night on base, hearing it played in honor of her friend was one of the toughest things she’s experienced.
“I’ve never shaken so bad,” she said. “I lost it when I saw his casket with the American flag draped on top of it.”
Sudlow said her husband, Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Sudlow, showed Barnes around base, and the two quickly grew to be friends. Although her husband is still stationed with Barnes’ 90th Logistics Readiness Squadron in Iraq, Sudlow said she felt she had to make the trip in honor of Barnes and on behalf of her husband.
“Losing Eric is more than just a loss to the people that knew him,” she said. “He was so nice, and so polite. Whoever met him just loved him.”
Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
steve manheim / chronicle
Brayden Kitchen, 5, and his mother, Lisa, light luminarias in memory of Eric Barnes on Osborn Avenue near the Barnes family home on Tuesday in Lorain.