Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nickolas A. Tanton laid to rest

As friends and family filled Fort Sam Houston's Dodd Field Chapel on Friday, Lt. Col. Joseph Fleury turned to the heavens to describe the life of Pfc. Nickolas Aaron Tanton.

"Once in a while we're blessed to see a shooting star," said Fleury, who celebrated the Mass. "It enthralls us ... we're caught up in its beauty."

But then it disappears, he said, and blends in with the universe.

"Nick was like that," he said, a bright light with a heart full of love.

Tanton, a 2001 graduate of Clark High School who was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in Kirkuk, is the 25th San Antonian to die in Iraq. He died Feb. 13 of "noncombat injuries," and the incident remains under investigation, according to the Defense Department.

Fleury repeated Christ's words that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another person. Tanton did that, he said, "for us, for our nation."

In his eulogy, Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw said he came to know Tanton in recent days through talks with his family and reading messages from his comrades in Iraq.

Tanton, 24, had charisma and a unique sense of humor he used in any situation to make things better for those around him, Czerw said.

Those who knew him said life never seemed to get him down.

Everyone recognized his deep loyalty and commitment to others, the general said, as well as his love for his family.

His comrades knew him as "laid-back," a "subject-matter expert" and a guy with a photographic memory, Czerw said, reading e-mails from Iraq.

But Tanton was, is and always will be a soldier, a living embodiment of courage and valor, Czerw said.

Those aren't just words, the general said. They have meaning because men and women such as Tanton are willing to risk their lives for others.

The general then quoted an inscription he once read on a Navy memorial: "For tomorrow, we gave our today."

Those words apply to Tanton, Czerw said, adding, "He'll not be forgotten by his family, or his nation."

After the chapel service, the casket was brought to the grave site by a horse-drawn caisson, with one of the animals bearing an empty saddle.

The caisson and honor guard slowly passed a row of 50 American flags fluttering in the wind. Their bright red, white and blue provided a colorful contrast to the gray clouds that promised rain but occasionally broke to yield a ray of sunshine.

At the grave site, the family received the medals and ribbons Tanton was awarded, including the Bronze Star and the Global War on Terrorism Medal.

Some standing nearby winced as the first volley of the rifle salute resounded. Others began weeping gently before the bugler finished taps.

From the Express News

Related Link:
Nickolas A. Tanton dies of injuries in non-combat incident