COLUMBIA — Friends, family, and fellow servicemen formed an aisle along the tarmac, guiding the hearse toward a small, white airplane. Not a sound could be heard but the sniffles of tears and hum of planes in this weekend’s air show.
Pfc. Jason Fingar’s American flag-laden casket was slowly and deliberately lowered out of the plane. Seven young Army soldiers marched with the casket before setting it in the hearse.
David and Rhonda Fingar held hands with their three children during the procession. Their youngest son, Jason, was killed by a road-side bomb May 22 while serving in the Army in Afghanistan.
Michael W. Posner, an active Navy sailor from San Diego, has volunteered for the Columbia air show for the past 10 years. This year, though, Posner stood in line to support Fingar instead of staying at the air show. It’s the right thing to do, he said.
“The community of Columbia, Mo., is singular in its support of the military,” Posner said. “There’s no other community in the country like it.”
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, Glory Riders and the Christian Riders Ministry formed the majority of the flag line. They watched and saluted as the coffin was lowered from the plane. The motorcyclists then escorted Fingar’s body through Columbia, from the airport to Memorial Funeral Home.
Vern Bastian is the senior ride captain for the northeast section of Missouri. He explained that the group is not a motorcycle organization but a national volunteer group. Anyone, anywhere can stand in the flag line and show a family the respect they deserve, he said.
And people of all ages formed the line. An adolescent boy held a flag, while his father put his hand on his heart. An elderly woman comforted her friend. Uniformed soldiers stood in solemn salute.
Vern Bastian said the group’s purpose is simple: to honor the people who supply and maintain our freedom.
He said the fact that Fingar’s service falls on Memorial Day should really “wake up” Columbia and bring out a lot of people to his service. Bastian expects well over 200 riders to come into town Monday for Fingar’s service.
“The definition of a veteran is someone who at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America, for an amount up to an including their life,” said Hollie Bastian, Vern Bastion's wife. “That’s honor.”
Air show worker Ken Hines did not know Fingar, but felt deeply affected given Fingar was his the same age as his daughter.
“I feel a sense of sadness and loss and not just for him, but for all those kids dying overseas,” Hines said.
Gov. Jay Nixon was also in attendance at the airport, but did not make any statements.
Services for Pfc. Jason David Fingar will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, May 31, 2010, at the Salvation Army Columbia Corps and Worship Center, 1108 West Ash. Graveside services will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Visitation will be Sunday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Salvation Army Columbia Corps and Worship Center.
Memorials may be sent in lieu of flowers to the Salvation Army Music Scholarship Fund, in Memory of Jason Fingar, 1108 West Ash, Columbia, MO 65203.
Tributes may also be left online at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetary.com.