Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mariyln Gabbard laid to rest

BOONE, Iowa (AP) -- Marilyn Gabbard was remembered Tuesday as the consummate soldier -- dedicated, unselfish and proud.

She was also described as a helper and fighter, ever since she was born prematurely with her twin sister and inspired others with her quick recovery.

That premature baby grew up to be a soldier, the first woman ever promoted to command sergeant major in the Iowa Army National Guard.

Her notable military career abruptly ended Jan. 20 near Baghdad, Iraq, in a helicopter crash that killed Gabbard and 11 other soldiers.

At her funeral on Tuesday, Gabbard, 46, was celebrated as a hero who sacrificed her life for the Army and for her country.

"She was always helping people and her fiery red hair only added to her fighting spirit," said Chaplain Capt. Gary Selof, who officiated her funeral.

An estimated 2,300 people attended the service, packing into the gymnasium in Boone High School, where Gabbard graduated in 1979.

Gabbard was born in Boone in 1960 and joined the National Guard shortly after high school, gradually ascending the military ranks in the next 27 years.

Along the way she got married and became a mother of one and stepmother of six.

She lived in Polk City before deploying to Iraq.

"Marilyn was a very good soldier," Selof said. "She was always dressed right, her boots shined. She loved helping soldiers. Her time in Iraq was spent helping soldiers."

Her funeral was a mixture of songs, Bible scriptures, and memories of her childhood and her life.

She enjoyed cooking, riding roller coasters, playing pool and driving her Ford Mustang convertible with zeal -- the top down and a compact disc of Cher blasting, Selof said.

It was the same music -- Cher -- that played as mourners filed into her funeral. The mourners later said their farewells as Gabbard was buried with full military honors at the Fairview Cemetery north of Madrid.

"If there is one thing we can learn from Marilyn's death," Selof said, "it's that we don't know what tomorrow may bring."

From the Journal

Related Link:
Marilyn L. Gabbard killed in helicopter crash