BROOKSVILLE — Shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday, time seemed to stand still along U.S. 41 leading north into Brooksville.
The roadside seemed to momentarily come alive with several hundred people, who stood holding flags, banners and signs as they waited for the long procession carrying Marine Cpl. Johnathan Taylor home to Citrus County one last time.
Like Richard Dubac, none of them knew the man in the casket inside the black hearse that rolled slowly past. But he was a hero, nonetheless, and certainly worth a few moments of their respect.
"All I know is that he was fighting for me," Dubac said tearfully as he clutched an American flag beside his wife, Caroline. "That's enough in my book."
Taylor, 23, died Feb. 22 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province in Afghanistan. It was his fourth tour of combat duty.
Growing up in Homosassa, Taylor had set his sights on becoming a Marine. At Lecanto High School, he spent four years in ROTC and attended a Navy Sea Cadet program. In 2007, he joined the Marines, and was eventually assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Taylor's mother, Deb, described her son as an affable and dedicated young man with a strong sense of duty to his Marine unit.
"He was a good Marine through and through," she said. "It was the most important thing in his life."
On Thursday, Deb Taylor stood silently with her husband, Mark, and 19-year-old son, Chris, as a small private jet carrying her son's body arrived on the tarmac of the Florida National Guard facility at the Hernando County Airport. With the family watching, an honor guard from the Marines 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion in Tampa lifted the flag-draped casket into the waiting hearse.
A public memorial service for Taylor will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Lecanto High football field at 3810 W Educational Path, Lecanto. Taylor will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.