Hundreds of strangers line streets to show support for fallen soldier Spc. Zachary (Zach) Shannon

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - He's flown thousands of miles in the last couple weeks, from Afghanistan, where he died, to Tampa Bay, where he lived most of his life.

Monday, Spc. Zachary Shannon's body traveled a final 30 miles from Mac Dill Air Force Base to Curlew Hills Memory Gardens while his family followed.

 

"He's twice the soldier that I'll ever be, that's for sure," said Shannon's older brother, Robert Mirrione. "I'm going to miss him."

 

Mirrione admits he tried to talk his little brother into joining the Navy, but Shannon, 21, always wanted to work on helicopters. His dream came true as a Black Hawk mechanic for the US Army. He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia. 

 

But it was aboard a helicopter that he would later die, in a crash March 11 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

 

"It's an honor to remember Zach," explained Joe DiSalvo. "This kid gave up his life. What more can he give?"

 

DiSalvo, 79, a veteran himself, never met Shannon or his family. He joined hundreds of other strangers Monday morning to show support, waving flags and saluting, many concentrated outside Dunedin High School where Shannon graduated from a popular ROTC program.

 

 "We came early today to make sure we got a good place," DiSalvo said. "Im going to stand up and salute him."

 

For Shannon's family, the 30 miles from MacDill to Palm Harbor began with tears. It finished with gratitude.

 

"We just sat there in awe, seeing everybody who was out there," explained Shannon's mom, Kim Allison.  "I think he would be eating this up right now. I might have to have a talk with him. I'm sure he's enjoying every bit. I'm sure he'd want me to say 'thank you'."

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