They came to honor those who serve. They came to remember those at war. They came to praise a mighty God.

And they came, Chaplain Jim Looby, retired U.S. Navy commander, reminded those gathered in the early darkness of evening Tuesday at the Depot Plaza for the annual candlelight service honoring local men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces, “because it is the right thing to do.”

“On behalf of an always grateful nation, we salute you,” Looby said.

Some 165 names of those currently serving, either in a reserve status or active duty, were read aloud. Some names were recited with rank. Some had merely their branch of service. Some are serving now in Iraq or Afghanistan or Japan. Some will deploy in 2008. All have ties to Brown County.

The names of three servicemen — U.S. Marines Lance Cpl. Mario Castillo and Cpl. Craig Ledsome, and U.S. Army Spc. Marieo Guerrero, all of whom were killed while serving in Iraq — were read with special notation.

Those men’s families were present in the congregation of more than 100, all quiet and reverent — and especially hushed while the names of those serving were read.

The service included several scripture readings, Christmas carols, a responsive reading, prayers for peace and prayers for strength, and prayers to watch over those who serve and those who stay home while their loved one serves.

It began with Boy Scout Troop 14 posting the colors, and opened with the 4XGrace men’s quartet singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” To conclude the service, all passed the flame and holding their flickering candles in the still night, sang together, “Silent Night.”