WESTON, MO (ANS) -- People in Weston, Missouri banded together on Saturday.
WDAF TV reported they wanted to protect loved ones who were saying goodbye to a fallen soldier, and stand up to members of the fervently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) who planned to protest at Sgt. First Class C.J. Sadell's funeral.
WDAF said Sadell died Oct. 24 from injuries he suffered in a surprise attack in Afghanistan. On Saturday, there was quite a turnout of people who wanted to keep the protesters away from the funeral.
"I'd say probably half the people in Weston are here," said Eric Moser, Marine Corp veteran.
WDF said Weston has less than 2,000 residents, and hundreds of people showed up to support the family of First Sgt. Sadell.
Sadell was in the Arif Kala region of Afghanistan when his unit was ambushed Oct. 5. Five soldiers died and Sadell was badly injured.
"If you think about it, they've all gone to serve just so we could be able to do this," said Rebecca Rooney who organized the supporters.
WDAF said she added, "He didn't die in vain."
Rooney's comment was presumably in response to a news release on a WBC web site, which read in part, "Sadell gave his life for the Constitutional right of WBC to warn America. To deny us our First Amendment rights is to declare to the world that Sgt. 1st Class Sadell died in vain, and that America is a nation of sodomite hypocrites."
Rebecca Rooney is a Weston resident who wanted to stand up against Westboro Baptist's controversial pastor Fred Phelps and his followers.
"We got everybody here early so we could take up all the parking spots," WDAF reported Rooney said. "We did that so Mr. Phelps wouldn't have a contingency that was really close."
Supporters came armed with patriotic music and American flags. The protesters didn't stick around long once they saw the supporters.
"I'm glad they left, but I'm sad they came," WDAF reported Rooney said.
WDAF said people came from Blue Springs, California and even Australia to be a part of the band of patriotic supporters. Half of the group lined up at the intersection, while the other half created a human shield at the funeral home.
Sadell was 34 years old. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.