Supporters turn out for funeral service of Knoxville soldier

Supporters turn out for funeral service of Knoxville soldier

Spc. Shan Lively (source: Spc. Shan Lively (source:
Patriot Guard Riders were just some of those in attendance. Patriot Guard Riders were just some of those in attendance.
Dozens of supporters lined North Broadway on Thursday. Dozens of supporters lined North Broadway on Thursday.

6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Hundreds of people showed their support Thursday for a Knoxville soldier whose funeral service had drawn the attention of political extremists.

Spc. Shan Lively died Friday. He was a medic with the 844th Engineering Battalion in Knoxville and served in Iraq for 12 months.

Starting before 9:00 a.m., local citizens and members of Patriot Guard Riders began lining Broadway near Rose Mortuary, where the funeral service was to be held at noon.

They turned out to not only show their support for the local soldier, but to blunt what was announced to be a protest demonstration by members of Westboro Baptist Church.

Westboro church members said Wednesday in social media they intended to picket at the funeral at 11:00 a.m., but failed to appear at the church or the cemetery.

The church members have gained nationwide notoriety for staging protests at funerals of soldiers and celebrities, purportedly to promote their anti-gay political views.

Before the funeral, some of Lively's relatives walked through the crowd of well-wishers to thank them.

"Nobody had to show up today. We don't know these people. They took time out of their schedule, a lot of people took off work, just to stand on the street and yell that they love us," said Lively's niece Stephanie Ford.

She said her family was shocked to learn Westboro Baptist Church had targeted this funeral to picket, but proud their community stood up for them.

"I've shaken people's hands that I'll probably never see again, but they'll always mean something to us for doing this," Ford said.

Friend of the family Aimee Allen played a big role in getting people to show up.

When she learned Westboro wanted to bring their hate speech and signs to Knoxville saying "God kills soldiers as punishment for America's sins", Allen posted her plea on Facebook less than 24 hours before the funeral.

"If you look around, you can see the diverse people, the community coming together to show support for a fallen soldier," Allen said.

Though there was no apparent protest to counter, the crowd was happy to spend the day honoring an American hero.

"To this entire community, I just wanted to say thank you. Because he can't," said Air Force veteran Stacey Ragsdale.

Spc. Lively's family and friends held visitation Wednesday night at Rose Mortuary on Broadway.

Patriot Guard Riders were in attendance during the visitation. They stood silently holding American flags outside the funeral home. Members of their organization frequently attend funeral services of military service men and women as invited guests of the family.

Lively's funeral service was at noon at the mortuary, with burial immediately following at East Tennessee Veteran's Cemetery. The burial was with full military honors presented by the Tennessee Army National Guard Honor Guard.

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