In the mid-morning hours on Friday, an airplane touches town at Robins Air Force Base. The cargo is that of Army Specialist Mark Downer, a Warner Robins native who lost his life while fighting in Afghanistan.
The funeral procession carries Downer through the city streets of Warner Robins, and past his old high school. That's where hundreds are lining the sidewalks, looking to catch a glimpse, and pay tribute to a fallen soldier.
"My son is in the military," Janet Horn of Warner Robins says. "I can only imagine what the parents are going through."
Jo Teague happened to find herself standing next to Army Sergeant Jesse Borders. Neither know one another, neither knew Downer. Both, are moved to tears as the procession draws near.
"It's an honor to stand here by this gentleman, this soldier. Standing side by side, it's an honor and a privilege," Teague says as she looks over her shoulder at Borders. "And I thank God every day for the freedom, for the men and women that are fighting for us every day."
Sgt. Borders has been active duty for 13 years, and is stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta. He never met, or much less heard the name of Mark Downer before. He swears, 'once a brother, always a brother'.
The grown man, a trained soldier for the U.S. Army, cannot control his tears when he thinks of the sacrifice Downer gave for his country.
"It's a tragedy and a loss that will not be forgotten. And as you can tell," Borders says choking back tears, "it is really hard for a soldier to stand here and tell how important, and what this means to soldiers like myself."
The procession winds its way back and forth through the city. Police and Sheriff cars lead the way with lights flashing and sirens wailing. Directly behind the lights come the deep rumble of the motorcycles from the Patriot Guard. Nearly one hundred motorcycles throttle past before Downer's hearse appears.
And a Sergeant stands at attention, gives a final salute to a fellow brother he never knew, and stands shaking, with honor and respect for a soldier from Warner Robins.
"He's a brother, and we all signed the contract...We take that oath and we became family."