Saturday, February 24, 2007

Daniel Morris laid to rest

RAPHINE — He was a born leader with a quick wit and a maturity well beyond his years. Raised in the rocky hills of the Shenandoah Valley, he joined Marine brothers in the hot sands of Iraq.

Thursday, Lance Cpl. Daniel T. Morris returned to the hills of his youth, minutes from his mother's home, as the earth swallowed his coffin on a windswept hill behind New Providence Presbyterian Church.

Hundreds huddled inside the little brick church to mourn the passing of a young man who was sure, almost from birth, of his place in the world.

"It only took Daniel 19 years to fulfill his obligation to God," said his mother's fiancé, Donnie Moneymaker. "But the rest of us will have to wait a little longer."

Daniel was killed Feb. 14 by an insurgent's pipe bomb flung through the bars of his checkpoint window in Iraq. He was carrying a St. Christopher medallion, a prayer cord and a cross, with a folded American flag in his backpack when he died.

Another Marine lost his legs in the same blast, said their platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Tin Nguyen, who served with Morris in Iraq.

"He was one of the Marines in the platoon that was the moral fiber," Nguyen said. "He was the glue that kept the platoon together."

Morris' friends from Wilson Memorial High School, where he graduated in 2005, said Daniel was quick to make a joke, but it was his maturity that really made him stand out.

"He brought so much energy," Logan Byrd, a Wilson High band-mate, remembered. "He was friends with everyone."

His brother, Jonathan, a senior at Wilson Memorial High School, said he wasn't happy when Daniel announced he was joining the Marines. He wanted Daniel to stay out of harm's way. In the past few days, however, he said he had made peace with his brother's decision to serve his country.

"During childhood, we were inseparable," Jonathan said. "All the way up to age 14, it was me and him."

Daniel could have been buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but once his family found that he could get a military service near home, the decision to lay him to rest in Raphine was made.

He was buried where he belonged, among friends and family who meant so much, at the church where he confirmed his baptism just after he finished basic training. Twenty-one rifle shots and a folded flag marked his memory.

"He would've wanted a military funeral," said his mother, Carol Wendell, "but I think he would've wanted to be near us."

From the News Leader

Related Link:
Daniel T. Morris killed in combat operations