By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
From Turpin, Okla., to Liberal, there was not a place where the Stars and Stripes were not being waved, a final thank you from those who lined the highway and city streets to show support for Specialist Jared Plunk who was killed in Afghanistan a week earlier.
Plunk grew up in the Oklahoma panhandle helping his father on the farm.
But when he was old enough, he traded in his overalls for the uniform of a soldier and had served for four years before his death.
He was not the only member of his family to make the decision to serve.
Of the seven Plunk cousins, every one that was old enough to join had done so.
Two of those cousins attended the Fourth of July burial of their fallen relative.
Jason Plunk, a sergeant in the Marines stationed at Marine Corps Air Station, Paris Island, S.C., remembered the influence that Jared had on his life.
"I came to see him when I was younger, and my life was not going real good at the time," Jason said. "He helped set me straight. That's the kind of guy he was."
Josh Plunk, a petty officer first class in the Navy, didn't know Jared as well since he moved away when he was 5. But he still knew the desire to serve that Jared had.
Josh and Jason followed the footsteps of their father who was in the Navy, and Jared also chose to serve.
"We didn't do this because we had to," Jason said. "We all wanted to do it."
Other military personnel was on hand for the ceremony that included a 21-shot salute from the members of the Honor Guard, the playing of Taps and the sounds of "Amazing Grace" drifted across the plains from a military bagpipe.
The flag that draped Jared's casket was folded and presented by General Harvest to Lindsay Plunk, Jared's wife and mother of his two sons.
She held the flag tight, tears escaping from the corners of her eyes while one of her children sat with his grandmother beside Lindsay.
The Patriot Guard formed a hedge of protection around the event with 91 motorcycles and 131 in the flag line.
"No one has ever honored our fallen soldiers at their funerals," Patriot Guard member Mike Hampton, Beaver, Okla., said. "Our mission is to honor the fallen soldier and show respect to his family."
Riders from the immediate area as well as Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas formed the line at the request of the family.
"We do not go unless we are invited by the family," Hampton said. "We are there at their request."
One of the ministers, Stan Lehnert, Turpin, has been performing funerals for decades. But this one was different.
"I had no idea there were that many flags in Liberal," he said.
But there they were. All sizes, some tattered, others were replicas of colonial flags.
But on Independence Day, the price of freedom, and the soldier that paid it, was remembered by those who took flag in hand and honored Plunk one last time.
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