NEW YORK - The 4-year-old son of a fallen U.S. soldier saluted his father's flag-draped casket Wednesday as it was carried from St. Patrick's Cathedral following a funeral Mass attended by hundreds of police officers.
Joseph Lemm, a Nebraska country boy turned New York City police detective, had Superman's good looks and superhero bravery, mourners were told at the service, which was held a little more than a week after he was killed in Afghanistan.
The Superman nickname "suggested people wanted to be like him," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his eulogy.
Thousands of civilians, military personnel and police officers from departments across the state lined the streets outside the Manhattan cathedral.
Lemm's 4-year-old son, Ryan, sat on the shoulders of an NYPD officer and wore his hat as the hearse arrived. Later, after the service ended, he stood on the cathedral steps and saluted as his father's casket was carried away.
Mourners sang "America the Beautiful" as they exited. NYPD pipes and drums led the hearse away.
Lemm was married with two children. His wife, Christine, stood stoically during the service as his 17-year-old daughter, Brooke, read from Corinthians.
The 45-year-old Lemm, a 15-year NYPD veteran who lived in Westchester County, was one of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan Dec. 21 when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber outside Bagram Air Base. He was a technical sergeant in the Air Guard's 105th Base Security Squadron who served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.
A tearful Police Commissioner William Bratton posthumously promoted Lemm to detective first-grade.
"Three times, this war took him thousands of miles away from his family, and the city and country he so dearly loved," he said in a eulogy. "And now it has taken him farther than miles. It has taken him to a new post in eternity."
In a homily, Lemm's local priest, the Rev. Christopher Monturo, remembered his parishioner as a jokester and loving person who enjoyed fishing, playing basketball and his Nebraska Cornhuskers.
"Joe never missed a police funeral no matter where it was," he said. "It's fitting there are so many here today."