"Stand down soldier
Your mission is done
The danger is over
There's no need to run
You were trained well
To obey each demand
So take this and heed
This one final command
Rest your body
And rest your eyes
As we weep the loss
When a good soldier dies"
— Poem inscribed on Sgt. John Lyons prayer card
Sgt. John A. Lyons, killed in Afghanistan in late October, received fitting tributes for a fallen soldier at his wake yesterday.
A sea of American flags studded the grass in front of the Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals on St. Catherine Boulevard.
Uniformed firefighters from the Seaside Park Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 stood solemnly next to the company's fire truck, not far from the entrance to Route 37 West.
And about 40 members of the New Jersey Chapter of the Patriot Guard lined the front of the funeral home, each person holding a full-size American flag to honor the young Seaside Park man who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Oct. 26.
"The family requested we be here," said Tinton Falls resident and Patriot Guard member Travis Lucas. "Whatever they want us to do, we do."
The Patriot Guard was formed in 2005, after a Midwest zealot church began showing up at veterans' funerals and creating disturbances. Today there are chapters around the country. The Guard's purpose is to show respect for fallen military members and shield the families and friends from intrusion, according to the group's website.
Inside, the picture boards told the story of John Lyons' short life, from near the end to the beginning. The first board was all military, John in uniform, John in his fatigues with his buddies.
But he wasn't just a soldier. He was a much-loved son, brother and engaged to be married. One picture board was devoted to his time with fiancee Kristiani Endreson. In the middle of the board was a postcard mailed from a military APO address, dated Dec. 18, 2010.
"I promise you. I'll be loving you always," it read simply.
Move down the line a little - towards his flag-draped coffin - and here is John as a teenager, with a headful of curly hair, a far cry from his military buzz cut. Here is a beaming John as a boy, a pale yellow Labrador Retriever puppy poking its head out of the front of his jacket.
And here is John, smiling into the sun, fishing off a Seaside Park dock.
Lyons - a 2003 graduate of Central Regional High School in Berkeley Township - died Oct. 26 of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, according to the Defense Department.
He graduated from Rutgers University in 2008, with degrees in political science and Latin.
Berkeley Township police, New Jersey State Police and Seaside Park police escorted Lyons' body home from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Wednesday.
The procession drove slowly through the streets where he played as a boy, hung out with his friends as a teenager, then made its way down to Barnegat Bay and along the oceanfront of the town that was his home.
Lyons was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, NATO medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star and the Overseas, Army Service and National Defense ribbons, according to his obituary on Legacy.com.
He leaves behind his mother Susan Smiley of Seaside Park; his father Ron Lyons, New Hampshire; his brother Adam and his wife Meredith, New Hampshire; his sister Lisa Lyons, Virginia; his maternal grandmother Gloria Smiley; New Jersey, his fiancee, Kristiani Endreson, Florida; several aunts and uncles and two nephews and many friends, according to his obituary.