“(The turnout for the funeral) took our breath away. Chattanooga has touched us. ”
Sgt. Carson Holmquist
Today at 1 p.m. in Grantsburg, Wisc.
Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells
Sunday at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan
Monday at 10:30 a.m. in Springfield, Mass.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith
Tuesday at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Fort Oglethorpe
Seven men in crisp uniforms walked into the church, six gripping the casket handles, one leading them out front.
The Marines in Mike Battery had drilled for a moment like this, the way they drill through even the most mundane details of their jobs. Their expressions were practiced. Their steps in sync.
Mike Battery was accustomed to the ceremony of military funerals. Often, they attend the memorials of veterans, men who fought in old wars and died of old age.
But on Friday, the Marines carried the casket, draped in the American flag, for one of their own. Staff Sgt. David Allen Wyatt, 35, was one of five military servicemen who died on July 16, when the FBI says a 24-year-old Muslim from Hixson attacked the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center with a handgun and an assault rifle.
As they entered Hixson United Methodist Church, the Marines marched in almost perfect unison. Feet stepped together. Arms swayed together. Eyes stared straight, past the police chief, the mayors, the governor and the senator.
"You warriors have come to pay tribute to one of your own," the Rev. Reed Shell told the Marines. "But in addition to a warrior, David was a son, a husband, a father, a friend."
Then, Shell looked to Lorri Wyatt. She married David about 10-1/2 years ago. For the past week, Shell acknowledged, Lorri Wyatt has tried to ignore the news about the mass shooting and its fallout throughout Chattanooga.
But, Shell told her, "the impact has gone far beyond the bounds of your family. July 16 has impacted this community in ways it may not have been impacted since 9/11."
For most, a funeral is an intimate moment. A final goodbye. But for Wyatt's family and friends, outside forces have thrust their grieving onto a national stage. Their tears have become the tears of a whole city. In a way, a community now shares Wyatt.
His family didn't ask for this. But his death, in many ways, felt symbolic. He died as a Marine. The attack threatened a sense of security in a city that had no direct exposure to the threats of a post 9/11 world. The whole country was watching.
On Friday, as the family rode to the funeral, thousands lined the streets with American flags and patriotic posters.
"It took our breath away," said Dawne Trent, one of David Wyatt's sisters. "Chattanooga has touched us."
After the funeral, residents waited across town for the family to arrive at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. There, members of Mike Battery carried Wyatt's body to a pavilion. Most continued to fight emotion. Others started to cry.
Three rounds of shots rang through the air. Then, the sound of a trumpet as two Marines folded a flag — stars on top — and handed it to Lorri Wyatt. The family exited as a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace."
About 500 Boy Scouts watched the procession. The children came because Wyatt loved his time in the group while growing up in Arkansas.
"And his son is a Cub Scout," said 14-year-old Jack Browand, a Sr. Patrol Leader for Troop 44 out of Cleveland. "It's like he is one of us."
Nearby, on Holtzclaw Avenue, a group gathered. Missy Wellbaum wanted to support the town. Chris Hicks, a former Marine from Ringgold, wanted to support the servicemen. Sheila Leath wanted to support Wyatt.
POLL: Should the five slain service members receive the Purple Heart?
"He is like a member of the family," she said.
But while his face has popped up on local TV stations, Facebook feeds and newspapers, few outsiders have had a chance to understand Wyatt as a person.
He looked for adventures. He loved to hike, ride his mountain bike and explore caves. During a visit to Yellowstone National Park, he woke his aunt up at 1 a.m. so they could watch Old Faithful by themselves. Under a full moon, the geyser blew bright.
"One of the most spectacular things I have ever seen," Robin Wyatt said.
He joined the Marines after 9/11, served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In Iraq, he manned the perimeter and kept watch even when he hadn't slept much, said his commanding officer, Capt. Chris Cotton. Wyatt was the operations chief for Mike Battery.
Hours before he died, he gave Staff Sgt. Christopher "Chase" Estep an RJ Rockers pint glass because he knew the brewery was Estep's favorite.
Wyatt was bad at poker, bad at soccer and bad at basketball. But he played all three, and he sweat worse than any of the other Marines. They called him "The Slimer."
Chris Ward, a childhood friend who became an Eagle Scout with Wyatt, worked with him in high school as a counselor at Camp Orr in Arkansas. In the summer after their sophomore year, Wyatt taught a canoe safety class.
As he and some boys sat in the still water of the Buffalo National River, a hardwood tree near the bank tipped over. Ward doesn't know why it happened — "just that tree's time to go," he suspects.
But when the tree dropped, it crashed onto one of the boys in a canoe. He was trapped, wedged between the boat and the hardwood. Ward watched Wyatt dip under the water, push the tree with his arms and press the boy's canoe toward the floor of the river with his legs. Wyatt created space, and the boy slipped away, free.
About two decades later, after Wyatt met the gunman in the reserve center off Amnicola Highway, most of the Marines were able to escape. Ward doesn't know the details about what happened that afternoon.
But his friend's death made him think back to that tree, and the river.
"There was a big hoopla — 'Way to go Dave!' — at the camp. But other than that, it was just another day for us," Ward said. "All these years we spend training for survival and first aid. All these countless hours. When something like this happens, it happens — and you react."
Staff writers Kendi Anderson and Shelly Bradbury contributed to this report.
Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6476.