Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Michael Wiggins laid to rest

Two days before Staff Sgt. Michael Josef Wiggins died in Iraq, he sent an e-mail to his sister, Nicole:

"Dear Nie, some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to."

Wiggins, 26, died Jan. 23 at a military base in Balad, 60 miles north of Baghdad. He was an ammunition specialist with the 79th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion based in Texas.

The Army has not explained the death, except to say it was from a noncombat injury.

The Shaw High School cross-country athlete with a contagious smile received a hero's welcome Saturday.

"Not a funeral but a homecoming and celebration of his life," the Rev. A.L. Owens said at the overflowing Second Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland.

Pastor David Hunter recalled playing Monopoly for hours with a competitive Wiggins, who was a junior deacon and choir member at Bright Star Missionary Baptist Church. Some games lasted until 1 a.m., with Wiggins shunning mere Baltic and Mediterranean avenues as "ghetto properties," Hunter said with a laugh.

Wiggins delighted in beating Hunter, who offered God some insight into dealing with Wiggins in heaven: "When Michael is aggressive, he's not being disrespectful."

The son of Valerie and the Rev. Anthony Wiggins of East Cleveland excelled in school and received scholarship offers for college.

Instead, he chose the Army, enlisting in 1998. He served in Kuwait in 2004, spent two years in the Reserves and rejoined the Army to serve in Iraq. He arrived there Oct. 29. He was to come home June 28.

Army Brig. Gen. David Quantock spoke during the three-hour church service. Wiggins had a nickname, he said. Fellow soldiers called him "T.M., for Technical Manual. He had them memorized."

Sister Juanita Shealey led a prayer for world peace and said Wiggins "lived a long time in a short while."

East Cleveland Mayor Eric Brewer remembered Wiggins driving his treasured gray Mustang. "The brother had his act together," Brewer said.

Wiggins' father spoke last about his only son.

Thrusting both arms in the air, the 54-year-old preacher wailed three times.

"I wish to God I could have died in your place."

From the Plain Dealer

Related Link:
Michael J. Wiggins dies from non-combat injury