Please see companion piece, Hundreds Line Route to Salute Officer Killed in Afghanistan.
There are classroom lessons and then there are life lessons.
The chance to salute a man who died for his country is about as real as it gets.
“This is not just learning out of a book. It is learning from real life,” said Deeba Zaher, principal of Village Elementary, which released most of the school's students so they could watch the procession along 4th Street for Lt. Christopher Mosko.
A charter plane brought Mosko, who was killed last month in Afghanistan, . He was assigned to the nearby Naval Amphibious Base, with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3.
All along the route, from Coronado, over the bridge and past Balboa Park to Hillcrest's Merkley-Mitchell Mortuary, hundreds of people paid their last respects to Mosko.
In Coronado, many parents stood beside their children waving flags; they were joined by workers who left their jobs to join their colleagues.
“We cleared the office to be here,” said Megan Stanley, a Coronado Schools Foundation employee.
The moment was particularly fraught with meaning for students though, said Zaher. She estimates that 40 percent of the students at Village, Coronado Middle School and Coronado High School have parents in the military. At Strand Elementary, the total is 75 percent.
“We need to thank the men and women who put their lives on the line, so that we can go to a wonderful school and live in this wonderful community,” she said.
School board member Doug Metz agreed.
“We should make this a regular practice for our fallen heroes,” Metz said. “It is the least we can do for them.”
Coronado has seen similar processions in the past year. Residents came out to honor some of the Navy SEALs who died last August after ; scores lined the route to the bridge for and .
Funeral director Grant Conrad was on the tarmac as Mosko’s remains arrived. He said the atmosphere was somber as the charter plane landed and he prepared to drive the hearse along the eight-mile route to Hillcrest.
The procession took about 45 minutes to wind its way over the bridge. He said the number of those who turned out to honor Mosko along the way was even more than the mortuary staff had expected.
“There were all the military and personnel who work on North Island lining the streets all the way through the base,” Conrad said. “And then when we got out to Coronado, there were all the residents lining the streets with their flags.”
The experience was stirring.
“I’m very honored to be involved,” he said. Driving the route, he said he was “just trying to keep my emotions. It was very moving to see all the support.”