EUGENE, Ore. -- The thundering roar of 100 engines echoed throughout Eugene as a caravan rolled into the parking lot of Garden Way Christian Church.
Friends, family, and fellow Marines gathered to celebrate the life of Lance Cpl. Joseph E. Rodewald.
Rodewald, 21, was one of four Marines killed in combat in Afghanistan on Oct. 13. His father said Rodewald was in a convoy near Sangin, Afghanistan, in Helmand province.
A sea of red flooded the church sanctuary. Many of the hundreds in attendance wore Rodewald’s high school colors with the number 33 -- Rodewald’s high school football number -- written on their T-shirts.
“He grew into being one of the finest young men I ever coached,” said Rodewald’s South Albany High School football coach Andy Lusco. “He was a very special kid.”
Rodewald was a son, a brother, a fiancé and a Marine. He was born in Eugene but grew up in Albany. As Oregon State Governor Ted Kulongoski said during the service, Rodewald is the latest of losses experienced by the small town of 45,000.
“Rodewald was the fifth member of the U.S. armed forces from Albany to be killed in Iraq and Afghanistan defending America and its values,” said Kulongoski. “His service to this country will not be forgotten.”
Throughout the service there were tears but also some moments of laughter.
“I recognize there are dignitaries here like the Governor,” said Rodewald’s father John Rodewald. “And it’s hard to say that right up there is Head Coach Chip Kelly.”
Kelly attended the service. Rodewald was voted the “Most Devoted Duck Fan” by his high-school graduating class and many family members said Rodewald would have been "so excited" to know the Oregon football coach would be present at his memorial.