It didn’t matter if they knew the soldier personally; thousands of members of the Santa Clarita community showed their appreciation today for Army Specialist Rudy Acosta and his ultimate sacrifice by lining the streets and waving flags.
Hundreds of people packed the sanctuary at Santa Clarita Baptist Church in Canyon Country, many of them neighbors, classmates, friends and relatives, there to say goodbye and raise their voices in song to help the family grieve.
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It was just as crowded outside, as both sides of Luther Drive were lined with gleaming motorcycles – one side belonging to law enforcement, the other to members of the Patriot Guard, there to honor the family and escort Acosta on his final journey.
“It gives us a purpose to ride,” said one Guard member. Before the services, the riders gathered in a circle for route directions and a short ceremony welcoming in first-time riders, who were given a token marking the occasion.
Several of the riders wore necklaces or pins with keychains holding dog tags – some a few, some a few dozen – collected from previous escort duties.
As friends gathered for the services, Acosta’s parents met privately with Brigadier General Gregg C. Potter, who presented them with Rudy’s Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
A few family members and friends shared their recollections of the young soldier during the service, prompting laughter or wistful smiles from those gathered. Rudy’s uncle, David Church, recalled a swim he took with the boy from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco, speaking of the young man’s determination to complete the task, no matter how hard – a theme that was echoed by other speakers.
After the services, a procession led by the law enforcement motorcycles and Patriot Guard riders guided the hearse, bearing the seal of the U. S. Army, around town, passing places important to the family. The route was lined with flags of all sizes, from small flags taped to power poles along Soledad Canyon Road to large flags that took more than one person to wave or display. Children lined the corner of McBean and Avenida Navarre with red bouquets; Youngsters and counselors from the YMCA waved flags and cheered as the motorcade passed by.
On the Golden Valley bridge, an engine from LA County Fire Station 104 hoisted the colors and stood at attention as the procession approached; it was one of several fire engines displaying flags and saluting the fallen soldier. Alongside the fire engine on the Golden Valley bridge, a construction truck parked close by and raised its bucket, holding a single man waving a flag. Older veterans stood along the route, covering their hearts with their hands or hats and stood tall for their brother passing by.
The motorcade ended up at Eternal Valley Memorial Park, where Santa Clarita Baptist Pastor Scott Basolo read the scripture and led those gathered in “Amazing Grace.” Interment was private.