OTTUMWA — An unbearable weight for one family has been supported on the shoulders of hundreds, perhaps thousands of neighbors from Ottumwa and beyond.
"I don't know how to thank them all," said Deb Hall, whose son, Cpl. Adam Wolff of the U.S. Marine Corps, was killed in combat last month. "I'm afraid if I try to [list] everyone who [helped us], I'll forget someone."
In the end, she decided to write thank you letters to every person who wrote to them and whose address they could find. And she'd talk to the Courier to broadcast a message to the community: For the support she received from near and far, the contributions, both large and small, she is grateful. So is her family.
"I can't tell you how many friends and family members who are in awe," Hall said.
Her daughter, Angela Malone, Adam Wolff's sister, said the ride from Cedar Rapids to Ottumwa helped show just how many people outside this localized area were affected. She knew there'd be Cedar Rapids police officers and Ottumwa police officers involved. Yet during the approximate two-hour trip to bring Adam home, rarely was there a time the family didn't see some recognition for the Marine.
Parents stood along the side of the rode, while children put their hands on their heart or saluted. Small communities had their fire engines out, flags draped over a bridge along the route.
"We don't even know what towns they were," said Malone. "There's no way to thank them all."
"Every little thing that people did helped," Hall said Tuesday. "That kind of thing means so much."
When the Flag Man came to decorate in Ottumwa, Hall was touched. When she heard about more than 200 people — a mix of loved ones and strangers — she was truly moved.