By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers
Solemnly they stood, forming a tableau that stretched from a corner in Clovis to Melrose to Fort Sumner.
“We are here to support the family of the fallen soldier,” said Byron Cross, near a Clovis church entrance, his motorcycle behind him.
A legion of supporters — most of whom had never met fallen soldier Sgt. Leroy “J.R.” Segura Jr. — mourned his death Monday, gripping American flags and filling entire blocks across three adjacent towns. Segura, 23, died while serving in the war on terror, fatally injured in a vehicle accident in Habbaniyah, Iraq, according to a press release from the Department of Defense.
About 70 Patriot Guard Riders — mostly motorcycle riders whose main mission is to attend the funerals of American soldiers killed in conflict — formed a wall around Sacred Heart Church, where funeral services for Segura were held under a gray sky. Many of the riders also attended his burial services in Fort Sumner.
“We all came for the same reason,” said rider Melanie Lloyd of Albuquerque, “to support the family and let them grieve in peace.”
Also joining the riders en masse were eastern New Mexico residents.
Clovis mother Margaret Romero and her four sons, the youngest 4 years old, proudly held banners and American flags in support of the Seguras.
“This hits home,” Romero said. “My brother is in the Marines. He deploys in September.”
Stationed along Sumner Avenue, more than 50 miles west of Clovis, a band of Fort Sumner residents shouldered heavy flags as cold rain drizzled down.
“We respect what the soldiers are doing,” Fort Sumner resident Miki McRee said.
Amid a tight cluster of family and friends, a childhood friend of Segura’s batted away tears, and spoke in soft tones of the day, as community members and riders lingered just feet away.
Manuel Black, 24, lived down the street from Segura and attended elementary, middle and high school with the soldier.
“We are all entitled to our own opinions,” Black said. “But I just (want the Westboro Church) to know that J.R. died for people to be able to have that opinion.”
Friends have said Segura, a 2001 graduate of Clovis High School, had an opportunity to attend college on a cross country scholarship, but he chose the Army. Segura joined in 2002 and arrived at Fort Benning, Ga., in June.
Segura is survived by his parents Leroy and Sandra Segura; his sister, Michele; and brothers Jake and Symon.