Last updated: August 23. 2013 2:08PM - 185 Views

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   SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — A church along the route had a verse of Scripture on its sign.    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”    John 3:16 seemed more than fitting Tuesday morning for the lost son, soldier and Christian.    Christian, in fact, was his name. The “all-around good kid” came home Tuesday, past flags lowered for him, past people who didn’t know him but wanted to honor his sacrifice, past schools in which he was a pupil not long ago.    Just about 11 a.m., a procession for Army Spc. Christian Neff, 19, roared into Shawnee Township off Interstate 75 with an Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser and about 20 motorcycles escorting a hearse carrying his body and several more limousines of family members. They had traveled from a private ceremony at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, in which the military turned over Neff’s body to his family.    The procession traveled through the township and past Apollo Career Center and Shawnee middle and high schools, where Neff was a pupil, graduating in 2006. It ended at Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home, at which calling hours will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. today and Thursday.    Neff died Sept. 19 from wounds from a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq. He is the sixth person from the region to die in the Iraq War. The confirmed U.S. death total in Iraq stood at 3,797 Tuesday.    “Our hearts go out to family and friends of all men and women serving this country no matter where they are in the world,” Neff’s family said in a statement. “We will be praying for peace so all soldiers can come home safely.”    People who didn’t know each other until they gathered in common purpose Tuesday morning waited for the brief moment when Neff’s procession came by on Breese Road.    When Judy Putt learned of the procession, she knew she wanted to drive to Breese Road.    “He gave for his country so that’s why I’m out here,” Putt said.    Dan Miller, a Navy veteran who also flew planes as a Marine Corps member in Vietnam, also didn’t know Neff.    “Pay homage to one of our own,” Miller said. “He died in the military in service to our country and I believe the whole metropolitan area should be shut down and be out here.”    Words caught in Theresa Garlock’s throat and a tear fell beneath her sunglasses when she spoke of Neff’s sacrifice.    “If it wasn’t for people like him, I wouldn’t have what I have today,” Garlock said. “I didn’t know him. My father and husband’s father both served in the military ... a lot of relatives. I just feel so bad for the family, but so thankful for what he did. He’s a son they can be proud of. Very proud.”    At Apollo, the procession drove under a giant American flag, hoisted in the air by ladder trucks from Shawnee and American Township fire departments. Career center students lined the driveway as the motorcycles and limousines zipped by. Pupils from Shawnee’s middle and high schools lined Zurmehly Road there as well.    Shawnee schools Superintendent Paul Nardini said he was impressed with pupils for their respect of Neff.    “It’s the least we can do,” Nardini said. “In my eyes, Chris is a hero. It has special meaning for me, because my son’s in the service. It was hard for me to fight back tears when he went by. This is a young man who died in the line of duty fighting for our freedom.”    Neff’s family, in a written statement, remembered the young man as “the best son anyone could ever hope for.”    “He was kindhearted and considerate of others. He was a believer and wore his WWJD wrist band for years until it wore out. Chris loved computers and spent hour after hour playing strategy and war games on them,” the family said. “He always did what he was told and was dependable. Chris was just an all-around good kid.”    In the statement, his parents said they sensed he would choose military life and supported his decision, even though they knew how tough it would be to have a son serving his country.    “We will always remember, respect and honor our son for who he was and what he stood for,” the family said. “May he forever rest in peace with God.”

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