Monday, January 08, 2007

Logan Tinsley laid to rest

CHESTER -- A pair of white doves flew skyward from a hillside cemetery on Saturday afternoon, leaving behind hundreds of weeping relatives, friends and veterans grieving the loss of a native son.

Logan Tinsley, 21, the Army specialist killed Dec. 26 in Iraq, was given a farewell unlike any in Chester since the Vietnam War. An honor guard fired three rifle volleys into the air. A lone bugler played taps. An officer bent to one knee and handed folded American flags to each of Logan's parents.

But it was after all the pageantry ended and the adults had left that came a moment Logan might've appreciated best: His brother, Ryan, and a dozen or so friends gathered around his casket, turned on a portable stereo system and, with the volume low, listened to a few minutes of heavy metal music that Logan always loved, including his favorite song, "Cowboys from Hell" by Pantera.

Saturday's funeral, beginning with an hourlong service in the gymnasium at Chester High School and ending with a graveside ceremony a few miles away at Chester Memorial Gardens, culminated nearly two weeks of mourning for the first combat death in Chester since the 1970s.

Tinsley, a medic with the Army's 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was killed when his Humvee overturned in a ravine south of Baghdad.

His death came in a war half a world away from home, but Tinsley's final resting place is not far south of his family's house on Walnut Street, the place where Logan had welcomed many of the loved ones now saying goodbye.

"I have listened to stories about the Tinsley household for a long time," said the Rev. Chris Snelgrove, a longtime family friend. "Legendary around Chester."

Veterans with the Patriot Guard Riders began lining up outside the Chester High gym at 8:30 a.m., each holding American flags that ruffled quietly in the breeze on a warm, sunny day. By the time the family's motorcade arrived three hours later, some 200 veterans were waiting to pay their respects.

"People who didn't know Logan are here," said Snelgrove, whose daughter, Casey, was among Logan's closest friends. "We recognize someone has offered his life on our behalf."

While stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska, Logan got engaged to Sarah Rose Nelson and planned to marry her during a furlough to the base this month.

Nelson had expected to meet Logan's mother, Lori Fairfax Tinsley, for the first time at the wedding. Instead, she met Lori and other relatives after arriving for Logan's funeral in Chester.

Inside the gym at Chester High, Tinsley's flag-draped casket was flanked by flowers in the shapes of electric and acoustic guitars that Logan learned to play growing up. Music was one of his first loves until he began devoting much of his time to the military.

"My hope is that the day after Christmas, in a ravine in a place so far away, Logan reached up," Snelgrove said. "And someone took his hand."

An Army rifle stood upright near the casket, with a helmet on top and a pair of tan boots at the bottom. The memorial honors the sacrifices of Tinsley and other soldiers killed in action.

"They take on enormous risks so we can live free in places like Chester," said U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., who recalled meeting Logan during an ROTC function at the high school three years ago. "He paid the supreme price, but he left a shining example."

From the Herald

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