By Dillon Thomas

BERTHOUD, Colo. (CBS4)– In the silence of a spring breeze on Friday, hundreds of Northern Colorado residents lined the streets as they paid their respects to 22-year-old Army Spc. Gabriel Conde, who was killed in action.

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Many honored his service on the streets of Berthoud, holding flags, as Conde’s casket was escorted through town.

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Conde’s body arrived in Colorado Friday after he was killed in action in Afghanistan.

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“It is very moving to see what he did for our country,” said Naomi Heavilin, a JROTC cadet at Berthoud High School.

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Heavilin, and other JROTC members in attendance, marched from Berthoud High School in their uniforms to the processional route. Conde was a student at Berthoud High less than five years before his death.

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Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, JROTC cadets from the region saluted Conde as his body passed.

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“It is extremely emotional, it is very moving. Some of our cadets were even in tears,” said Isabella Norris, a JROTC cadet.

PHOTO GALLERY: Spc. Gabriel Conde Funeral Procession

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“We don’t ever want to ever experience it again,” Heavilin said.

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As Conde’s casket passed, many only lifted their hands off their hearts to wipe tears away.
“It is very surreal. You hear about (soldier deaths), but you don’t think about it happening in your town,” Heavilin said.

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“It is much more real when you have to watch it go by.” Norris said. “This hit home with all of us.”

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Many of those in attendance said standing in attention in support of Conde and his family was the least they could do.

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“It is surreal,” Heavilin said. “Especially with Berthoud, we come together as a community very well.”

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Many JROTC cadets said they already had respect for those who offered their lives to protect those at home. However, after Conde’s death, they said the gratitude was larger.

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“He should not have had to die for that. But, because he did, it makes (our respect) so much greater,” Norris said. “Their son died a hero. He will be continued to be honored, and respected, forever. We have brought him home today.”

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Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.