As a sign of solidarity, supporters from around the coastal region lined the sides of Highway 84 in Hinesville on Friday morning as the remains of Sgt. Stefan Smith were returned home. Hundreds of people waved flags and stood solemnly as a hearse, flanked by the Patriot Guard, made its way to Carter’s Funeral Home.
Smith, 24, of Ludowici, was killed in action July 23 in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. His wife, Kristi Smith, and children, Dewey, Denver and Gracie Smith, live in Ludowici.
Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka, Kan., church known for its extreme ideologies and staging protests at military funerals, is threatening to protest Smith’s funeral, which is 1 p.m. Sunday at New Beginnings Church in Ludowici.
According to a news release posted on the church’s website, protesters will deliver a “message to be preached in respectful, lawful proximity to the memorial of Sgt. Stefan M. Smith.”
Soon after community members learned of the protest, plans for a counter-protest were posted on Facebook by Amber Myrda, who hopes to shape what she calls “a human barrier/shield to protect the family of Sgt. Stefan Smith from seeing the WBC and their stupidity.”
Myrda is calling for participants to meet at noon at the church to get in place. So far, according to the event page on Facebook, 1,163 people have committed to attending the counter-protest, which Myrda has stressed, will be peaceful.