TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – On a mild 50-degree Saturday afternoon, Traverse City grappled with a mix of grief and gratitude as it bid farewell to fallen Marine Miguel Justin Nava on March 2nd. The streets were transformed into a somber display of flags, with the community pouring out to pay their respects.

The flag-waving mourners lining Traverse City’s streets were comprised not only of those who knew Nava personally but also strangers united in a shared sense of loss. Gold Star family members, local veterans, and other community members joined in honoring the young Marine whose life ended too soon.

Traverse City community pays homage to fallen hero.

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Individual tributes dotted the procession route as well as the Grand Traverse Veterans Coalition adorning intersections with numerous flags. A large flag, positioned at half-staff at 14th Street and South Division Street, within Tom’s grocery store parking lot, also paid homage to Nava, marking a crucial point along the journey from the church to the cemetery.

Team Elmers, actively involved in the commemorative efforts, utilized their crane to contribute to the tribute. They had previously displayed a large flag along M-72 during Nava’s procession from Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids to the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home in Traverse City last Monday.

The collective sorrow of the city manifested as homeowners stood at their driveways, waving flags, and patriots gathered at the entrance to the Crown, a residential golf community on North Silver Lake Road, paying their respects to the Marine as the procession passed by with over 90 vehicles. There were also hundreds of individuals waving flags on 14th street as the procession went by.

Marine’s life cut short.

The fallen hero, 28-year-old Nava, lost his life on February 7th near San Diego, California, in a helicopter crash that also claimed four other Marines. Survived by his wife Ryann, son Luca, parents Javier and Lisa, and brother Nikolas, Nava’s tragic departure left a void in the hearts of many family and friends.

Nava’s “Celebration of Life” at Kensington Church on Saturday brought together his loved ones, with speakers including his uncle, Pastor Kurt Pressler, brother Nikolas, hometown friend Mitchell Saum, and U.S. Naval Academy roommate Lieutenant Oliver Ni.

Childhood joys on Michigan waters.

Born in Traverse City, Nava’s childhood was marked by summers on Long Lake, where he fearlessly embraced adventures with family and friends. Brother Nikolas and friend Mitchell reminisced about Nava’s youthful escapades, highlighting his penchant for turning ordinary activities into daring endeavors, such as sitting on a chair on a saucer towed by a boat.

A leader always in command.

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And while Nikolas admitted to not always being close to his older brother when he was younger, he fondly spoke of Miguel’s role as a mentor, noting Miguel’s disciplined approach to life.

Drawing laughter from the mourners, Nikolas said that his brother was “no fun” in his eyes when he was a child, with Miguel always acting as a second dad. While Nikolas was just a little kid trying to have fun and break the rules, Miguel wouldn’t allow it, always wanting his brother to be better.

The service venue, filled with friends, community members, Marines, and Navy sailors, showcased a stage adorned with a poignant photo of Nava, surrounded by flowers and flags.

Pastor Pressler, Nava’s uncle, injected moments of levity, describing Nava as a “quality and adventurous man” but also one with a refined taste in beer. He added that the multitude of mourners stood as a testament to Nava’s profound impact on the lives of family and friends.

A poignant farewell.

As the procession left the church, eight saluting first responders, including members of the Long Lake Fire Rescue and a Green Lake Township police officer, paid their respects. Grand Traverse County Sheriffs’ vehicles led the way to the Grand Traverse Memorial Gardens, where Nava was laid to rest with full military honors.