RANCHO CUCAMONGA (CBSLA) — Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola returned home to Southern California for the last time Tuesday.
Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, was among the dozens killed in an Aug. 26 bombing at an airport in Kabul in Afghanistan. Two other Marines from Southern California – Lance Cpl. Kareem Grant Nikoui of Norco and Corporal Hunter Lopez of Indio – were also killed in the attack.READ MORE: Suspect Arrested in Hit-And-Run Crash That Left Scooter Rider In Critical Condition
Thousands of people crowded the streets and freeway overpasses along the 27 mile procession route to honor the life and sacrifice of Merola.
Samuel Johnson said the attendance of thousands meant the world to his family.
“Me and my cousin, we’ll meet again one day,” Johnson said of his younger cousin.
The of them grew up in Rancho Cucamonga where Merola was a beloved student and theater tech. Becoming a Marine, Johnson said, was Merola’s dream come true.
“He grew up to actually be a strong individual and I can’t be anymore proud of him,” Johnson said.READ MORE: Shooting Outside Pomona High School, 12-Year-Old Boy Transported With Non-Life-Threatening Injuries
Ken Kramer, who attended the procession, has a son-in-law that is a Marine Staff Sergeant who trained two of the 13 service members who perished.
“It’s tough for the guys who have been there many times and see what’s happened in the last month and I hope the families know, all 13, we all support them. We’re behind them a 100%. This is American pride,” Kramer said.
Terri Bearden who also attended the procession said people came out as a realization of the sacrifices that others have made on American’s behalf.
“Freedom isn’t free and we now know and that’s why we’re all here today,” Bearden said.
In an emotional farewell, Johnson said his goodbye to his beloved cousin.
“Dylan, we love you. We miss you. Thank you for your service and a salute to you,” Johnson said.
A public funeral service for Merola will take place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Forest Lawn, which is open to the public. A large crowd is expected.MORE NEWS: Metro Bike Share Station Announces 12 New Stations Throughout Hollywood