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Hundreds turnout for soldier’s return home
Tampa Bay pays its respects to Zach Shannon
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    Photo by WAYNE CATHEL
    Hundreds of people line the streets of Dunedin as the Fallen Hero Escort, led by the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office, brings home the body Army Spc. Zachary Shannon.
 
DUNEDIN – Hundreds of people lined the streets of Dunedin March 25 as a procession bearing the remains of Army Spc. Zach Shannon passed by on its way to Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor.

Shannon died March 11 in a helicopter crash while on a training mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The 39-mile Fallen Hero Escort, led by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, left MacDill Air Force Base Monday morning. Banners and signs honoring his memory greeted the procession as it arrived in his hometown of Dunedin. Residents waved U.S. flags and saluted as the hearse carrying his flag-draped casket slowly passed.

Along the way, street marquees and personalized business signs saluted the 2010 graduate of Dunedin High School. Students on spring break lined the front of the high school to pay their respects. A number of Bright House employees were in the crowd in support of Shannon’s dad, who works for the company.

Shannon, known as Zack to family and friends, is the youngest of four military brothers. He spent four years in the Navy JROTC program at Dunedin High. He joined the Army and became a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter mechanic.

The 21-year-old wrote on his Facebook page, "I decided to join the army instead of going to college, but this makes me part of a proud few that stand alone. I'm not the best runner but I make up for that with my 40/40 expert marksmanship. I'm a Blackhawk mechanic and love my job. I can’t wait to get home."

At a celebration of his life March 24 at VFW Post 2550 in Dunedin, Miles Springer said, “We all know that Zach loved helicopters. We got pictures of him in the slideshow, around 4 or 5 years old sitting in the helicopter, with an ear-to-ear grin on his face. He was very proud to do what he did. He loved his job, and he loved to fly in those things. What a way to go – doing what you love. If you have to go, there’s no more honorable way to go than that.”

Shannon is survived by his parents, Kim and “Chip” Allison; brothers, Joe Mirrione, Robert Mirrione and fiancée Jordan; and Steven and Kristin Shannon; his maternal grandparents, Robert and Margaret Grubbs and several aunts, uncles, cousins and special friends.

The family has requested a private burial ceremony. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Dunedin High School ROTC program. Shannon will be buried in Dunedin Cemetery on Wednesday. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to order flags to be displayed at half-staff in his honor.

Tom Germond and Wayne Cathel contributed to this story.

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