Bagpipes played as tearful family and friends poured out onto the street after last week’s funeral service for Lance Cpl. Angel Rosa, killed March 13 in Iraq.

Rosa, 21, of South Portland, died while he was conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. Rosa was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), home based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

His funeral March 21 at Sacred Heart Church in Portland drew a huge crowd. Chrismelly Glavez, of Portland, who is a friend of Rosa’s sister, Mimi, said that she wasn’t able to find a seat inside. “I just stood in back because it was so packed,” she said.

According to the program, several of Rosa’s friends, as well as his wife, Elise, were scheduled to speak about Rosa. Rosa’s former soccer teammate, Tyler Laplante, said that his friends spoke about how Rosa was like a brother to them, how he was always setting an example. As a teammate, Laplante described Rosa as “very intense. He wanted to win so badly and pushed everyone else to do it.” Laplante also added that Rosa was “really friendly with everybody.”

Neil Plummer, another former classmate at South Portland High School, which Rosa graduated in 2004, remembered how Rosa “put other people in front of himself.” He said he would always pick up the tab when he was out with friends. “That’s the kind of guy he was,” Plummer said.

Besides friends and family there to honor Rosa for his sacrifice, the service also drew some protestors.

A small number of protesters stood on the corner of Park Avenue and Mellen Street, part of which was blocked off by police. They were part of a group that has been protesting military funerals, spreading an anti-gay message.

The protesters held signs and chanted, trying to make their voices heard. But, members of a group organized to honor soldiers killed in combat outnumbered them.

Lined up in the street, holding flags were members the Patriot Guard. According to State Rep. Mike Vaughan, who also serves as state captain for the group, the Patriot Guard’s “general purpose is to honor the fallen and stand for them as they stood for us.”

Protesters, who have become common fixtures at military funerals, have given the group a new duty to undertake. “Our secondary purpose is to shield the family from protesters,” said Mick Smith, a member of the Patriot Guard.

The guard does not use violent means to combat the protesters. “We turn our backs to them and concentrate on the family,” Vaughan said. “They’re not worth out time,” said Smith. David Harmon, another member of the Patriot Guard, acknowledged, “they have the right to their opinion.” But, he added, “this is not the time or place.”

Rosa was buried in a family plot in Pennsylvania, according to Hobbs Funeral Home, which handled the funeral.

Soldiers carry the casket of Angel Rosa out of Sacred Heart church in Portland. Rosa was killed in Iraq in combat on March 13.The patriot guard lines up outside Sacred Heart church to honor fallen soldier Angel Rosa and protect his family from protesters.

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