A hushed silence filled Peoples Church on Friday as the montage of photographs traced Brian Piercy's life -- on Christmas Day, at the piano, with his brothers, in his Buchanan High School letterman's jacket, on his wedding day, in the military.
At each step in his short life, Piercy won friends and influenced people, those closest to him recounted.
A loyal friend and gifted musician who grew into a leader, Piercy was laid to rest in a quiet spot along an American flag-lined drive at the back of the Clovis Cemetery following his funeral at Peoples Church.
Piercy, a 27-year-old Army staff sergeant who served in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, died July 19 of injuries from an improvised explosive device set off in Afghanistan's Arghandab River Valley.
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He was the seventh graduate of Buchanan -- and the fourth from the school's 2001 graduating class -- to be killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"They put themselves in harm's way because it's the right thing to do," said Gabe Escalera, former principal at Alta Sierra, the middle school that feeds into Buchanan. He was Alta Sierra's principal when most of the Buchanan grads who have died in service -- Piercy included -- attended the middle school; he said the toughest thing to see now is their families.
As Piercy's casket lay in front of about 750 people at Peoples Church, his uncle, David Barnes, recalled a boy who was "gentle and kind, but also truthful and strong."
He was raised attending Peoples Church and loved music from an early age. Told by his teacher he had to practice 30 minutes a day, he complained to his mom, thinking he could only practice that long. He later was a marching band drummer.
After graduating from Buchanan in 2001, he attended Fresno Pacific for two years before deciding to join the military. Fresno Pacific was where he met his wife, Christina; their marriage went through two deployments and 27 months of separation for Operation Enduring Freedom, Barnes said.
Christina Piercy told those at Peoples Church that her husband was the "kind of person you really wanted to be around." She last saw him during a February break in his deployment.
"He never once let me down," she said.
Piercy was Cpl. Kyle Henderson's squad leader, but also his best friend, Henderson said.
"We weren't just soldiers, we were his soldiers," Henderson said. "I feel for those who never had the opportunity to know Brian."
James Noone, a friend since the seventh grade, recalled that Piercy was loyal and dedicated to everything he did. After a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps at the cemetery, Noone recalled his fondest memory -- a seventh-grade church trip to Magic Mountain.
"We were kids, having fun," he said.
Leaving Peoples Church, the funeral procession went east on Herndon to Peach, then south to Sierra, east to Villa and then back north to the cemetery. Along the route -- which was festooned with red, white and blue ribbons -- dozens of people lined up to pay their respects.
"When a soldier dies in battle, you lose part of yourself," said Fresno resident Adolph Reyes, a Fresno resident and military veteran. "That's how I feel now, like I've lost a brother."
Also at the corner of Herndon and Peach was Clovis resident Chris D'Ambrosi, who decided to honor Piercy's funeral procession after talking to friends with children in the military.
"How many more boys are we going to lose?" she asked. "One is too much."