Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Brandon Stout laid to rest

KENT CITY -- As the war in Iraq nears the end of its fourth year, deaths such as that of Army Spc. Brandon Stout are like a punch to the gut in small-town communities.

So it was on Monday, as some 800 mourners gathered at Remembrance Reformed Church in Walker to honor Stout, 23, who died of wounds suffered when an explosive detonated near his vehicle Jan. 22 in Baghdad.

Later, a couple hundred huddled in a frigid, wind-swept cemetery in northern Kent County where the 2002 Kent City High School graduate was buried with full military honors.

"It kind of hits home," said Joe Clark, 52, who has a son in his third year at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

"You hope you never have to deal with this as a parent. I don't care how bad the weather is today. People should be here."

Clark was not alone in wondering how much longer the nation can ask its young men and women to die in Iraq.

"It's a tough call. You pull out all of the troops and the guys have died for what? But maybe it is time to remove ourselves from there."

Stout was assigned to the Kingsford-based 46th Military Police Co. of the Michigan National Guard and was activated in July. He deployed first to Fort Dix, N.J., and reached Iraq in October.

He joined the Guard in 2003, hoping to serve as a chaplain's assistant. But when he was assigned instead to military police duty, friends and family said, he jumped into the mission with characteristic zeal.

He also was remembered by teachers and classmates for his irrepressible sense of humor and for his role on the 2002 Quiz Bowl team that captured the state title for Class C and D schools.

After high school, Stout attended Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, where he met his future wife, Audrey Hinken. The two were married in May 2005.

Before shipping off to Iraq, Stout worked for the Transportation Security Administration at Capital City Airport in Lansing and at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Standing outside the sanctuary at Remembrance Reformed, fellow TSA worker Bill Ricks, 62, recalled Stout as an energetic worker who loved to put a smile on the face of passengers and co-workers alike.

"He was outgoing and very friendly. He made all of us laugh," Ricks said.

"He always had a positive attitude. We were really looking forward to him coming back from Iraq."

Sparta resident Ryna Reinbold recalled Stout as someone with a rare combination of humor and deep religious faith. Reinbold knew Stout for his involvement in the high school youth group at Mamrelund Lutheran Church in Sparta.

But Stout also gained notoriety for driving around town in an aqua-blue hearse, his personal trademark.

"It was just a Brandon thing," she said, laughing at the memory.

"He wasn't afraid to talk about his faith."

That came through in Web postings and e-mail messages he sent back from Iraq, step-uncle David Anderson recalled at the memorial service.

Stout wrote of his experience in Iraq as one of "life's storms -- and this is a storm like nothing I have ever seen and one like most people never see."

His other step-uncle, Marty Anderson, said Stout had planned to return to Great Lakes Christian College and study for the ministry when he was through with the military.

"His ministry is just getting started," Anderson said.

The funeral procession motored on icy roads 18 miles north from the church to the cemetery, passing fire trucks from area departments at virtually every intersection. As it rolled slowly through Kent City, dozens braved the cold to wave American flags.

Cedar Springs volunteer firefighter Dave Barnes, 39, stood along Peach Ridge Avenue and explained why he was there.

"They are fighting over there for us. It's the least we can do," Barnes said.

Following a 21-gun salute at the cemetery and the playing of Taps, a military honor guard presented folded American flags to Stout's widow, his mother, Tracy Anderson, and his father, Bill Stout.

Coleen Boyer, 50, of Casnovia, said she felt she had to be at the cemetery. Her son, Gordon, is in the Air Force and scheduled to go to Iraq in May and she fears for his safety.

"My heart goes out to the family. You cannot help but weep about our young men and young women giving their lives.

"You hope it is in a just cause."

From the GR Press

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Brandon Stout remembered

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Brandon L. Stout dies of injuries from projectile I.E.D.