Navy SEAL and 5 Soldiers Are Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
By Mark Berman
Cpurtesy of The Washington Post
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Hundreds of mourners gathered at Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, some coming to honor five soldiers killed in a helicopter crash last year and others to pay tribute to a Navy SEAL killed in combat last month.
Although the gray skies threatened rain, the weather held for the services.
For the first funeral, more than 300 people crossed York Drive, which lines the north side of Section 60, for the burial of Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Thomas Harris.
Harris, 36, of Lexington, North Carolina, died August 30, 2008, during combat while trying to cross a turbulent river in Afghanistan. The Navy SEAL was temporarily deployed from his assignment at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group based at Dam Neck, Virginia.
"He was a true Renaissance man," his mother, Evelyn Harris, told The Washington Post last week. "Josh always wanted to be the best and the brightest, especially in things that helped people. He believed he was fighting for our freedom and fighting terrorism with all his heart."
During the service, flags were presented to his mother and father, Sam Harris; his twin sister, Mary-Maria Kirstin Harris, known as Kiki; and his older brother, S. Ranchor Harris III.
Harris was a man of diverse tastes and talents, an all-county and all-conference football player at Lexington Senior High School who majored in studio art at Davidson College, family members said. He loved to paint, and the walls of his family's home are covered with his work.
Later in the morning, dozens of mourners came from Bradley Drive, on Section 60's south side, for a group burial honoring five soldiers killed in a helicopter crash May 30, 2007.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher M. Allgaier, Staff Sergeant Charlie L. Bagwell, Sergeant Jesse A. Blamires, Sergeant Brandon E. Hadaway and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua R. Rodgers were killed when their CH-47D Chinook helicopter crashed near Afghanistan's Helmand province. A Canadian and a Briton were also killed in the crash. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
A horse-drawn caisson followed a military band down Bradley Drive. The caisson carried a flag-draped silver coffin bearing the remains of the five soldiers. Mourners stood as four Black Hawk helicopters flew overhead to start the service.
American flags were presented to Rodgers's wife and parents, Blamires's wife and father, and Allgaier's wife. A child sat on Jennifer Allgaier's lap, clutching the flag that was presented, and Allgaier held the child and the flag close to her.
All of the soldiers were paratroopers with the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Each had been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, among other honors, and had at least one previous deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan.
At 33, Allgaier, of Middleton, Wisconsin, was the eldest of the five and served as a tactical operations officer and pilot.
"I catch myself going from choked up to upset and to mad about" the situation, his father, Bob Allgaier, told the Omaha World-Herald shortly after the crash. "Even though he had a high-risk job, you never really think this would happen."
Three days after the crash, Jennifer Allgaier received flowers and an anniversary card from her husband, she told the Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina.
Rodgers, 29, of Carson City, Nevada, was also a helicopter pilot. More than 600 people attended Rodgers's funeral in June 2007, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune in California. His aunt, Linda Moshier, said at the time that Rodgers was always the first to offer others help.
"He was the kind of person any time anyone needed help, he was the first one there," she said. "He was a wonderful, wonderful human being."
She said he returned home from boot camp determined to marry his high school sweetheart, Casey. They had three daughters: Madison, Autumn and Ashlyn.
Bagwell, 28, of Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, was well-liked and a mentor, members of the 82nd Airborne Division said in a release.
The flight engineer had a son, Preston Owen. Several members of Bagwell's high school class established a memorial scholarship in his honor, calling him "a true friend to all who knew him" on its Web site.
"He was liked by everyone who knew him," Chief Warrant Officer Dave Cox said in the release. "You couldn't help but like Charlie. . . . I will truly miss him and there will never be anyone like him."
Blamires, 25, of West Jordan, Utah, was a flight engineer but dreamed of becoming an astronaut.
At a memorial service for him in June 2007, family and friends recalled the fun he had when flying, according to the Deseret Morning News. His friend Mark Jones recalled that after a test flight with Blamires, "I actually got to hear Jesse give an audible 'Wee.' "
Jones also spoke about Blamires's bravery, saying he aided another aircraft that was under fire during a mission a month before the Chinook crash. "That is the definition of a hero. Jesse was a hero," he said.
Hadaway, 25, of Valley, Alabama, was a "big ol' teddy bear," Staff Sergeant Ronald E. Walton said in a statement. A flight engineer who joined the Army in January 2002, Hadaway was also a proud husband and father.
His father, Gene Hadaway, told the Tuscaloosa News last year that Hadaway was a very active child who was protective of his younger brother and sister.
"He really looked after them growing up," Gene Hadaway said. "If you were going to pick on Michael or Brittany, you'd have to pick on Brandon. That's the way he was. Brandon wouldn't be the one to back down from anything."
With yesterday's funerals, the number of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who are buried at Arlington rose to 500.
Relatives grieve during a joint funeral for Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher M. Allgaier, Staff Sergeant Charlie L. Bagwell, Sergeant Jesse A. Blamires, Sergeant Brandon E. Hadaway and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua R. Rodgers, who were killed when their CH-47D Chinook helicopter crashed last year near the Helmand province of Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack
Members of the U.S. Army Old Guard hold folded U.S. flags that were to be presented to the relatives of the five soldiers
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Posted: 9 September 2008 Updated: 13 September 2008