Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Michael Balsley laid to rest

Leslie Boyd dabbed away a tear when she talked about Army Spc. Michael Christopher Balsley, who was her nephew's best friend.

When she learned that Balsley was killed in Iraq late last month, she said her family was devastated.

Boyd and others remembered Balsley Tuesday for the sacrifice he made to his country, as he was laid to rest with full military honors in Porterville.

“Michael was truly my hero,” Boyd said after his funeral service Tuesday afternoon.

Balsley was buried Tuesday at Hillcrest Cemetery, bringing to two the number of military service members with ties to the community who have been killed thus far in Iraq.

Balsley, 23, of Hayward, was married to a Porterville woman.

He was killed Jan. 25 when his vehicle struck an explosive in Baghdad. He was assigned to Fort Carson, in Colorado.

More than 100 people, including family, friends and soldiers, attended Tuesday's memorial and graveside services.

At the graveside, Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey presented Balsley's mother and widow with five medals conferred upon the Army serviceman posthumously, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

“These are never easy,” said Maffey, the director of Army training. “We want to ensure the family that the Army is grateful for their loved one's service and we are not going to forget their service, before or after they have departed.”

Balsley was also promoted posthumously to the rank of specialist, said 1st Lt. Greg Dorman, the Army spokesman from Fort Carson.

During the funeral service at Myers Funeral Services and Crematory, Army Chaplain Dan Minjares recalled some of Balsley's memorable traits, as told to him by the family.

Balsley, Minjares said, was “fun loving, goofy, adventurous,” and according to his wife, had “a gorgeous smile.”

“He excelled at his job,” Minjares said. “He had a significant impact on many people.”

Minjares also stressed the fact that Balsley volunteered for the armed forces, something that fewer than 1 percent of American people do.

“Michael volunteered because he wanted to,” Minjares said. “He said, ‘I will choose to serve my country.' ”

As a boy, Balsley talked of becoming a soldier like his father, who served during the Vietnam War.

After the attacks on the World Trade Center, Balsley realized his boyhood dream and joined the Army; in October he was deployed to Iraq.

“A lot of guys his age, they want to just hang out. Michael was dedicated to do something not just with his life, but for the United States of America,” said his father, James.

Balsley's love for the Army Cavalry was clear from his profile on, which begins with the phrase “If you ain't cav” and ends with an expletive.

“He always had a smile on his face. He was like a son I never had. He was a great kid. I can't believe that he's gone,” said family friend Judy Vargas. “I figured of any of the soldiers, he would have been the one to come home because of his tenacity and integrity. It's just really sad.”

Balsley is survived by his wife, Samantha Jean Balsley of Porterville, and a 1-year-old stepson, Logan Michael.

From the Recorder

Related Link:
Michael Balsley reported killed in Iraq