DUNKIRK, NEW YORK - For the first time Saturday, the community was able to come together to remember a fallen Army sergeant from western New York.
Last month, Sgt. Jonathan "Nate" Gollnitz from Fredonia was killed while fighting in Afghanistan.
Hundreds came together at First Baptist Church in Dunkirk, to honor the memory of Gollnitz. They also went to help his family recover after losing a precious soul on September 26th.
"This is an amazing outreach to the community and the supporters, you guys have seen all the people who have shown up, the family really appreciates this stuff. This has meant a lot to them and this has helped them in their healing process," said Sgt. Jason Roberts.
Inside First Baptist, person after person spoke about Gollnitz and what he meant to them. Outside hundreds lined the sidewalks, just about everyone grasping an American flag.
"We stand in honor of those who stood for us today we're standing for Sergeant Jonathan Gollnitz," said Bill Brainard, senior captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, which is an organization that has the mission of maintaining the respect of those who've served to defend America.
"Many of our riders drove a long distance from Pennsylvania, from Rochester, New York to be here today because it's all about honoring a veteran," said Brainard.
While passing away at the young age of 28, Gollnitz's family says he always wanted to wear the uniform of a service member. He spent five years in the U.S. Navy and one tour in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army. He also was sent to Afghanistan during a time when the war against insurgents was fierce. It was there he perished in a suicide bomb attack while on patrol.
"We've been forced to live a horrible dream over and over, we struggle to accept and come to terms with all of this, one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that John would be so honored how the community has come together," said a close friend of Gollnitz.
The courageous soldier leaves behind a 4-year-old son.
"He missed his son dearly he was a great father and he took that fatherly way about him to his soldiers, he treated them all like his kids, he took care of them," said Roberts.
Gollnitz preferred that his ashes be spread in Texas, that wish was kept.
During Saturday's service, the Gollnitz family received stars from a local organization that honors veterans. A gold star was given that represents sacrifice. A blue star was also given, which represents hope and pride.