PORTLAND, Ore. -- Mourners remembered one of the men who was fatally stabbed trying to stop an anti-Muslim tirade against two teenage girls on a Portland light-rail train as a modern-day martyr and a hero who never stayed on the sidelines when others were in need.

At the funeral Monday of Rick Best, 53, the Rev. Rick Paperini used the word "martyr" to describe Best's actions on May 26.

"It is a privilege to love," Paperini said. "I think Ricky understood love this way. He saw it as an opportunity and a privilege, and that's why he responded the way he did."

Best, an Army veteran who worked for the city of Portland, leaves behind a wife, three teenage sons and a 12-year-old daughter.

Hundreds attended the funeral, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and members of the Portland City Council, among others.

Prosecutors say Jeremy Joseph Christian killed Best, another man and wounded a third when they tried to stop Christian from verbally assaulting the girls, one of whom wore a Muslim head covering.

The reading during the service was from John 15: 12-17. The 13th verse from the passage reads, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Representatives from the Muslim community were in attendance, and Seemab Hussaini of the Council of Islamic-American Relations praised Best before the service. "He saved those girls' lives. It's a symbol of courage," he said.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of the Catholic Church said Best's example of bravery has pulled together a community.

"The group that came here today for [Best's] funeral is a very diverse group of people of all faiths of ethnic backgrounds [and] walks of life," Sample said after the service. "But somehow they recognize in the sacrifice of Ricky Best and the others something that puts us beyond our differences and pulls us together for the sake of the good of our community."

Stacy Pinder, a family friend, called Best a hero.

"Ricky just set the example," she said. "For all the children that have gone through Catholic school in our community, Ricky's a hero. In this world, there aren't a lot of heroes, not a lot of people you can really have your children look up to. What Ricky did will forever more imprint on my life and my children's lives."

The funeral was followed by a procession route to the Willamette National Cemetery, where Best was laid to rest. Members of the public lined the route and Clackamas Fire District No. 1 honored the procession along the route.

Many people lining the procession route were eager to share their thoughts about Best.

"It's important to me that I bring my daughter and show her that we stand up for love and the good of our city and our country," said Jennifer Brownlee, who lives in Happy Valley.

Elaine Murray, a Happy Valley resident, said the community needs to "come together and say what they did was the right thing to do," referring to Best and the other men who stepped in to defend the girls.

"It's nice to have this example of someone who stands up to that," said Silverton resident Mike Niemeyer.

"We just need a lot more of that."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.