BARSTOW • Dozens of people stood outside in a cold, blustery wind on Friday night — most clutching American flags — as they waited for the remains of a man who was killed while working as a military contractor in Afghanistan to come back to Barstow.
As the procession featuring dozens of motorcycles and several officers from the Barstow Police Department, San Bernardino Sheriff's Department, and California Highway Patrol came down Barstow Road on its way to Mead Mortuary, the people lining Barstow Road cheered, clapped, and honored the memory of Paul Almryde.
Almryde, 46, was killed April 16 by a suicide bomber while working for military contractor MPRI in Afghanistan as part of the Afghan National Army Corps support battalion. According to reports, a Taliban bomber dressed like an Afghan soldier in order to infiltrate a joint Afghan-U.S. base in the eastern province of Laghman. Four Afghan soldiers and five NATO service members — including Almryde — were killed in the attack.
Almryde had served his country for 21 years as part of the Army and Army National Guard before signing a contract with MPRI last year. He was scheduled to come back to Barstow in June and was going to celebrate his 10-year anniversary with his wife, Pamela, upon his return.
Jim Osbourn started organizing the procession after he heard Almryde's body was coming back to Barstow on Friday night. Osbourn said he was happy that so many Barstow residents were able to attend the procession on such short notice.
One of the people attending the procession said he was friends with Almryde for about six years after meeting him through country dancing and received his last communication from Almryde a few days before his death. Charlie Gallegos knew Almryde as a nice, easygoing guy who once took the theft of his motorcycle in Las Vegas much more calmly than the rest of the people who were with the group.
"He seemed disappointed, but he didn't seem mad (about the theft)," said Gallegos.
Many of the people lined up along Barstow Road did not know Paul personally, but were there to honor the memory and legacy of a man who was born and raised in San Diego, but had lived in Barstow for the past 15 years. Some were veterans and many seemed to know someone who had served in the military.
Yvonne Kirkpatrick — who has many relatives who served in the military — said she felt that the tribute was fitting for a man who had served so many years.
"It was a wonderful tribute," said Kirkpatrick. "I think everyone who comes back should get that tribute."
For Albert Ramirez, Jr. Vice Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2143, the death of Almryde was heartbreaking.
"(The procession) is not going to bring him back, but we can at least remember what he did and what he was doing," said Ramirez.
As a Vietnam veteran, Richard Patino, Commander of the VFW Post 2143, seemed pleased that Almryde received recognition for his service.
"We didn't get as much recognition," said Patino, who added that the recognition of Almryde showed just how close-knitted the city of Barstow is. "It's a little town with a big heart," said Patino.
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Memorial service for Paul Almryde
Tuesday, April 26
Visitation at 10:00 a.m.
Services begin at 11:00 a.m.
First Baptist Church, 1320 Barstow Road