BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Hundreds of people lined U.S. 17 in Brunswick on Tuesday to honor the service of a U.S. Army captain killed in a car accident nearly two weeks ago in Germany, where he was stationed.
Capt. Mathew Benasuly, who leaves behind a wife and three young children, will be laid to rest in his hometown Saturday.
A family friend described Benasuly as a true American hero, a patriot and a wonderful guy.
"My husband served almost 36 years, and any time that we have to come to the funeral for a fallen hero it certainly puts how precious life is in perspective," Joni Bennett said.
Benasuly's body was flown to Jacksonville on Tuesday morning, and he was escorted by a convoy of motorcyclists, the Brunswick Fire Department, Georgia state troopers and a helicopter to his final rest in Brunswick, where a full tribute awaited.
The procession came through an hour ahead of schedule, but those in place early waved American flags as the funeral coach headed off the Sidney Lanier Bridge and continued down the 5-mile stretch of Highway 17, ending at Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home.
It was a solemn morning as a grateful community looked on in silence.
The procession hit home for people who had never even met Benasuly.
"I've just been praying for the family that the Holy Spirit would comfort them. I mean I cried. It made me sad," said Bonnie Carter, a rider with Saints of Chaos.
Benasuly was assigned to the California Army National Guard after completing the infantry officer basic course at Fort Benning, Georgia. Throughout his career, he was assigned to numerous staff and leadership assignments within the California Army National Guard and the Georgia Army National Guard.
Benasuly deployed in 2017 to Wiesbaden, Germany, where he was assigned to U.S. Army Europe G3 Future Operations.
Details of the crash that killed Benasuly were not available.
Benasuly's funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home at 3321 Glynn Ave. in Brunswick.
Following the funeral, the family said, there will be a full military honors interment at Palmetto Cemetery. Benasuly's family is also inviting everyone out to Camp Tolochee, where there will be a celebration of his life, following the burial.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project. A GoFundMe account has also been set up to help Benasuly's family with expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/3kjtu60.
Virginia Breland, a mother with two daughters, said that her younger child asked during Tuesday's procession if Benasuly knew their family.
"No," she answered, "And he fought for us anyway."