The few, the proud, Steve Sutton

One of the many signs around Leesburg and Albany remembering Steve Sutton. / Matt Prichard

The excitement from Phillip Phillips American Idol victory has been overshadowed by the passing of a Leesburg native Marine.

Lance Corporal Steve Sutton was killed during combat operations in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. The 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs Office is reporting that Sutton was a mortarman assigned to the 1st battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division. Sutton had been in the service since 2009 and was promoted to Lance Corporal in October of 2010.

Despite the tragic news, Leesburg residents have come out in mass numbers to encourage and comfort Sutton's family.

"We've just had enormous amounts of calls, and even folks coming in. They're just eager to pay their respects to the fallen marine, and that's totally understandable. We've just gone from some highs to some lows here lately and I think it's very honorable that folks, you know, this marine does need to be honored, that's the ultimate sacrifice" said Lisa Davis, Vice President of the Lee County Chamber of Commerce.

Throughout the community businesses are decorating their signs with messages to the Sutton family, but one local business owner took it a step further.

"I contacted Mrs. Sutton, the wife, and told her what I wanted to do, and she said man I'd be really proud if you did that so, we went out there and put our flag at half staff, and we're going to leave it there until his memorial service is over" said Tim Gieryic, a local Albany business owner.

The Chamber of Commerce will be working closely with the American Legion to arrange a memorial service so the entire community can pay their respects to this American hero.