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Mourners pay their final respects

NEW LONDON -- Mourners filled the New London-Spicer High School gymnasium to pay their final respects and honor the memory of Private First Class Ryane Clark this afternoon.

"We have lost a brother and piece of our heart,'' said Maj. Gen. Rodney Anderson. The message he delivered to the mourners came from Clark's fellow soldiers who are still fighting in Afghanistan.

Clark was killed Oct. 4 while serving in Shekhabad, Afghanistan. He was part of a convoy that was ambushed by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

A military honor guard delivered the flag-draped casket as the fallen soldier's parents, Tracy and Rick Clark, led family members into a gymnasium filled with people who had come to show their support.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Adjutant Gen. Larry Shellito of the Minnesota National Guard were among those joining to pay their respect.

Outside the school, Patriot Guard volunteers holding American flags lined the roadway under the gray skies befitting the somber mood of the mourners.

Clark was a member of the Green Lake Lutheran Church. Its pastor, the Rev. Victor Young, eulogized the fallen soldier as someone who was "filling the gap,'' defending his country and protecting our God-given freedoms.

Patriot Guard members on motorcycles led the way as family members, three busses filled with mourners and a procession of private vehicles drove to the small church cemetery south of Spicer.