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Fit for a Hero: Community gathers to remember Chris Dickerson as his body returns home to Carthage

The funeral for Chris Dickerson will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Carthage Civic Center. He will be buried at Restland Memorial Park Cemetery.

CARTHAGE, Texas — An seemingly endless line of people gathered along Wellington Street to watch a procession of law enforcement vehicles bring the body of Panola County Deputy Chris Dickerson home to Carthage.

RELATED: Funeral services announced for Panola County Deputy Chris Dickerson

In the days since Dickerson's death, a makeshift memorial, set up outside the Panola County Sheriff's Office, has been filled with bouquets of flowers, notes and other gifts for his family.

The Panola County Sheriff's Office says so many memorials and notes had been left, they had to clear the patrol vehicle with a somber black ribbon.

The procession escorting the hearse containing Dickerson's body left Dallas in the afternoon and traveled down I-20 towards Tatum.  

Once in Tatum, more than 40 law enforcement vehicles from sheriff's offices, police departments and constable offices from across East Texas escorted the hearse to Hawthorn Funeral Home.

RELATED: REMEMBERING DEPUTY CHRIS DICKERSON: Devoted family man, undisputed hero

The casket carrying Deputy Chris Dickerson arrived in his hometown of Carthage shortly after 6 p.m.

Family, friends and neighbors, from young children to elderly adults, stood vigil along the route and outside the funeral home, waving American flags and shedding tears together to support Dickerson's family.

The casket, draped in an American flag, was taken from the hearse and carried inside the funeral home by fellow officers with Dickerson's family nearby.

The vigil for Deputy Chris Dickerson at Still Waters Cowboy Church just outside Carthage was moved back to accommodate those that were outside the funeral home for the procession. It started at about 7 p.m.

The parking lot was full outside as hundreds of people from several communities across East Texas gathered inside the church to remember the life a local hero.

The message of the service was directed toward Dickerson and his young family: Thank you for living your life of service to others.

"No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily," Pastor Matt Comer said during the service, quoting John 10:18 in the New Testament.

"I always say, 'Blood is thicker than water.' Well, blue blood is thicker than blood," DeSoto Parish Lt. Dean Register said. "And there is blue blood running through every vain in here that's carrying a badge tonight."

Lt. Register also recognized Dickerson's family, particularly his mother, for giving Carthage, Panola County and East Texas as a whole a hero the community can look up to and remember.

There was more than religious leaders and Dickerson's brothers in blue speaking at the vigil. 

The softball team that Dickerson helped coach to a championship also appeared on stage, in their blue, black and white Elite Carthage uniforms, to thank him for his service beyond the badge. His eldest daughter was the team's catcher.

"Each one of these girls look up to Chris," a coach of the team said, with the 19 girls and two other coaches standing by his side. "I look up to Chris."

In one of the most emotional moments of the service, the team gathered in a tight circle, putting their hands in the middle.

"One...Two...Three...Chris!" They cheered to a standing ovation from a tear-filled crowd.

The funeral for Chris Dickerson will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Carthage Civic Center. He will be buried at Restland Memorial Park Cemetery.

Visitation will be at the Carthage Civic Center between 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.