Sunday, March 25, 2007

Forrest Waterbury laid to rest

WAMEGO — It was impossible not to notice the displays of support and patriotism Saturday as family and friends said their final goodbyes to Army Spc. Forrest John Waterbury.

The bridge leading into town from the interstate was lined with American flags. Hundreds of people lined the stretch of US-24 highway leading to the funeral home, waving arms and flags.

The narrow county roads next to Stewart Funeral Home were lined with cars on both sides. The parking lot was filled with nearly 300 members of the Patriot Guard and more flags.

"We're overwhelmed," Waterbury's father, Steve, said of the community's support. "I've never seen anything like this."

Waterbury, 25, was killed in action March 14. He had just begun his third tour of duty in Iraq, this time in the Ambar province west of Baghdad.

"He was doing what he really wanted to do," said Steve Waterbury, of Richmond, Texas.

Forrest Waterbury, a native Texan, was a quiet kid growing up. He liked playing with his Legos and taking apart his Transformers.

The mechanical fascinations of taking things apart and putting them together again followed him into adulthood and the Army. He enlisted at 19 and served as an M1A1 Abrams tank crewman assigned to a unit at Fort Stewart, Ga.

"Being a tanker was his life. He loved being a tanker," Steve Waterbury said.

He said the only thing Waterbury loved more than being a tanker was his wife, Christi. He is also survived by his stepson, Wesley Michaud; his parents, Steve and Barbara Waterbury; and his brother, Christopher.

At the graveside service following the funeral, members of the Patriot Guard from across the state lined the cemetery's paths, creating a tunnel of American flags progressing through. They also encircled the entire group standing near the grave site.

"Our primary mission is to honor the fallen," said Larry "Sardog" Levindofske, a Ride Captain with Patriot Guard members from Topeka's American Legion Post 400.

Even the weather seemed to be conspiring to make the service a special one. The sky was gray, but there was no rain.

And the gentle breeze strengthened just enough to extend the full length of hundreds of flags at the cemetery just as the honor guard was removing the flag covering the casket.

The service ended with "Amazing Grace" being played on bagpipes. Then family and friends did the only thing they could — go to the church for a good meal, comfort and to share their favorite stories about Forrest.

From the Journal

Related Link:
Forrest J. Waterbury killed by small arms fire