GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. | Flags flew at half-staff around Michigan on Friday to mark the funeral of a Valparaiso native killed in Afghanistan who was inspired to join the Marines after hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise money for charity.
About 300 friends and relatives of Cpl. Daane DeBoer, 24, gathered for a private memorial at a church in Grand Rapids.
His friend, Lance Cpl. Ryan Innis, said he had been looking forward to going hunting with DeBoer when his tour in Afghanistan ended. Instead, Innis was assigned to escort DeBoer's body on a plane from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Grand Rapids' Gerald R. Ford Airport.
"That was definitely the most difficult thing I've ever had to do and probably will be for the rest of my life," Innis told The Grand Rapids Press.
DeBoer was killed June 28 when an improvised explosive device exploded while he was on foot patrol in Helmand province.
During the funeral, Marines in dress uniform walked silently down the center of the Mayflower Congregational Church ahead of DeBoer's casket. After the service, a Marine bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" before pallbearers loaded the flag-draped casket into a hearse.
DeBoer enjoyed extreme sports such as skiing, and he hiked the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail while raising money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit dedicated to the fight against breast cancer. The trail runs along the mountainous spine of the eastern U.S.
"The discipline of doing the trail and what he was doing it for, I think, had a huge impression on him," his father, Valparaiso attorney David DeBoer told The Associated Press this week. "Doing something bigger than himself."
DeBoer was born in Valparaiso, where he attended Immanuel Lutheran School through sixth grade before moving to the Grand Rapids area. DeBoer graduated from Northview High School in Kent County's Plainfield Township, near Rockford, Mich.
He enlisted last year and was deployed to Afghanistan in March. DeBoer was part of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Along with his father, other survivors include his mother and stepfather, Charlene and Jim Zerrenner, of Ludington, Mich.; his stepmother, Mary DeBoer, of Valparaiso; sisters Aubrey, Ashley and Lindsey DeBoer; and grandmother Barbara Sturrus, of Grand Rapids.