Officers and pastors prepare for fallen soldier's funeral

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It's a hard day for family, friends and the community as they remember and say goodbye one of their own Friday.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jesse Williams, an Elkhart resident, was killed December 17th when a helicopter he was on crashed in Afghanistan.

Friday, his body will be laid to rest after a funeral at Granger Community Church. The funeral service is at 1 p.m. The burial will take place immediately after, at Rice Cemetery in Elkhart.

Pastor Mark Waltz says hundreds of people were at the visitation Thursday and they expect that many people if not more to show up to the funeral.

He says it has been a collaborative effort working with Billings Funeral Home and the U.S. Army to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. He says they have also been working hard to pay attention to detail to make the service as respectful as possible.

There will be officers from several agencies at the funeral working to make sure things run as smoothly as well.

“Obviously our primary goal is to make sure that everyone attending these services can get in and out safety and that the route through St. Joseph County is safe as well as in terms of vehicles traveling on these roads,” explains St. Joseph County Police Department Assistant Chief Bill Thompson.

A big question on a lot of people’s minds is whether or not protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church will be at the funeral. Earlier this week the church did announce plans to protest this funeral. WNDU reached out to the St. Joseph County Commissioners as well as Mishawaka to see if they had talked to the group. They told WNDU that they have not heard from them. They also say no permits have been given out. However, the only reason these protestors would need a permit would be if they were going to block off a street.

“What we have in Indiana are some laws that actually address these things fairly directly. For folks protesting in this kind of a circumstance they have to remain 500 feet off the property involved. Certainly we are in a position to enforce that if it becomes necessary,” Chief Thompson continues.

Pastor Waltz says with the help of law enforcement their focus can stay on this family and catering to their needs. He also says everyone is welcome to the funeral and encourages folks to remember there is still a war out there. He also encourages people to take the time to say thank you to those who are serving or who have served.

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