MULLINS, SC (WMBF) – Amidst threats from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church to protest the funeral of a Mullins Marine, hundreds showed up to say goodbye to Gunnery Sergeant EJ Pate at the ceremony Wednesday without incident.
Pate was killed last Sunday while fighting in Afghanistan. His wife says the day was about honoring his service and celebrating his life.
"He was everything to me. Like every second of my day now I have to fill because it was all for him and that's gone," said Kimberly Pate.
Supporters from the town of Mullins to the Grand Strand attended the funeral, many of whom are veterans themselves.
Bill Stewart, of the Patriot Guard Riders, organized a group to escort Pate's body to the service. Stewart says there wasn't even a question he'd support Pate's family and friends.
"He did the hard work and we're just going to go up there and be there for the family. We're going to do an escort for the family and go to a little funeral service for them today," Stewart said.
Pate's wife says she and her loved ones are grateful for the outpouring of support.
WBC said in a press release last week that it would picket Pate's funeral from a distance, but never showed.
Law enforcement from Marion County, Mullins, Nichols the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and South Carolina Highway Patrol were on hand to prevent things between protesters and supporters from getting out of hand.
There was a staging area for the protesters, but it remained empty throughout the afternoon service.