FERNLEY - From a handle on his flag-draped casket hung the dogtag of Pfc. Thomas Lyons on Tuesday. Around the neck of his 3-month-old son, Erik, dangled two more. The infant reached out to touch the red, white and blue cloth presented to him by an Army general. All around, a heartbroken family wept.
A military police officer with the 545th Military Police Co. out of Fort Richardson, Alaska, Lyons was among three soldiers killed Sept. 8 when a roadside explosive penetrated their vehicle in Northern Iraq.
"He was a joy and a blessing. As a young man he loved life, he loved people. He never really understood what a great person he was," said the 20-year-old's stepfather, John Flint, at the afternoon service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
"We love you. We know where you're at. We know that we will be with you soon."
Through tears, friend Michael Coughlin talked of Lyons' volunteering for duty in Iraq.
"He didn't go for blood and he didn't go for glory. He went for his family. He went to war to make this world a better place for his family and his son," he said. "Thomas was a good man."
Following the service, the family, fortified by the presence of dozens of motorcycle club members and escorted by four Reno motorcycle police officers, made the solemn journey to Lyons' final resting place at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
"We are vets. We are here to support our fallen brother," said Showdown, a member of the Vietnam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club.
All along the four-mile route - its intersections kept clear by a seeming army of Lyon County deputies - people lined the street clutching American flags. The community had come out to bid Lyons goodbye.
"Erik will grow up knowing that his dad is a hero," Brig. Gen. Dan York of the 104th Division of Fort Vancouver, Wash., said before kneeling in front of the baby. "His memory will live forever and we'll protect it and I know you'll protect it, too."
Lyons spent his elementary school years in Carson City and attended Fernley High School, where he was on the football and wrestling teams. He enlisted in the Army in 2007 and was stationed at Fort Richardson.
He was married six months ago. His wife, Delvin, also an active duty soldier, gave birth to their son in May. Lyons was allowed by his commanders to stay home for Erik's birth, said his mother Jeanna Flint. He arrived in Iraq on July 12.
Lyons was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
Among his many survivors are his parents and seven siblings, including his twin sister, Kim.