Marlin Tillman, a Shenandoah American Legion member, served with Sgt. Brent Maher's stepfather, Mick Tyner.
Tillman told the mourners who filled the Thomas Jefferson High School gymnasium: “There are days when you just can't speak. For the family, today is one of those days.”
He read a message from Tyner:
“I'm so proud of you, Brent. As time went by, I felt you were my own son. Last Christmas, your gift to me was a T-shirt. It read ‘Army Dad.' That gift made me feel like we'd really bonded. That gift made me cry then, as I'm doing now.
“I'll miss you, Brent.”
The Rev. Yvonne Marshall of Our Savior Lutheran Church, which Brent and his wife, Brenna, attended, officiated at the service.
“He loved hunting and fishing, country music. And a beer,” she said. “But most important was family.”
Maher had three children — Kaitlyn, 9, Matthew, 8, and Hannah, 4, from a previous marriage — whom “he adored,” Marshall said.
Brenna was flanked by Brent's daughters at the funeral, while Matthew sat near his mother, Sarah. Brent's survivors also include his mother, Cheryl Tyner of Essex, and brother, Greg Maher of Ocean Springs, Miss.
The minister told the story of Brent and Brenna's love.
“She says she didn't fall for a man in uniform,” Marshall said. “She fell for a man with beautiful blue eyes.”
A number of men and women in the armed forces were in attendance, as were dozens of Legion Rider motorcyclists.
About 250 people lined 25th Street and Broadway before the funeral began, waving American flags and holding signs that said “United We Stand,” “Support Our Troops” and “Silence for the Fallen.” Passing drivers honked their car horns, prompting cheers, while motorcyclists revved their engines to put a charge in the crowd.
David Craighill lingered along the street, miniature flag in hand, after the funeral procession passed. “He was a great hero for this country. I came out to pay my respects.”
At Garner Township Cemetery, a crowd gathered before the processional arrived. Among them was Loren Knauss, a Pottawattamie County supervisor.
“It's an incredible sacrifice that many truly don't understand until something like this happens,” he said.
The burial ceremony included a gun volley, taps, a bagpipe player performing “Amazing Grace” and American flags presented to Maher's family. Among the mourners were Gov. Terry Branstad and Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan.
— Mike Brownlee and Tim Rohwer, World-Herald News Service