People said "Goodbye" and "Thank You" to a Long Beach Marine who died while on a training mission. Last month, Staff Sergeant Donnie Levens died in a helicopter crash off the coast of Africa. On Saturday he was laid to rest.
Staff Sergeant Donnie Levens came from a large and well-known Long Beach family. So it seems only natural that there be a large turn out for his funeral. But many of the people paying their respects had never met the 25-year-old Marine.
More than 20 motorcycle groups from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama came together to show support for the Levens family. They led the hearse from First United Methodist Church in Long Beach to a cemetery in Gulfport.
Once at the cemetery, the bikers lined the entry way and held up both the Marine Corps and American flags. They saluted the fallen hero as the funeral procession went by. Most of the motorcycle club members are either active or former military members.
Ed Baker of the Patriot Guard Riders said, "We've lived it. We've been there and this is something that I hope somebody would have done for us, God forbid, if we hadn't made it back home. So we just feel it's our obligation to show our respects to someone who, I don't want to say gave his life, because he didn't give it, but his life was taken in the services of his country."
Of course, Staff Sergeant Levens received full military honors at his funeral. His parish priest from St. Thomas Church, Father Louis Lohan, was touched by the ceremony.
"What it says to me is one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. In tragedy people come together of different creeds and cultures and ways of life and they come together to support the family of Donnie Levens and say, 'Thanks be to God for his life,'" said Father Lohan.
Margaret Levens was given the American flag that had been draped over her son's coffin.
"It felt great to know everybody was willing to show up that didn't know him, willing to show their sympathy. To know that there were so many people out there that he touched."
She clutched her flag which in her eyes "just means that his life meant something. His life and death means a whole lot to a whole lot of people, especially me."
Margaret Levens says she would like to thank the community for their support, especially the mayors of Long Beach and Gulfport.