Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Luke Emch laid to rest

TALLMADGE -- A son, a brother, a "Doc" and a hero was remembered with deep fondness Monday morning.

Navy Corpsman Luke Emch was ceremonialized in private at Donovan Funeral Home in Tallmadge at 10 a.m., followed by a procession past Emch's family home, his alma mater Tallmadge High School and Field High School where Emch was a student his freshman year. The route continued on to the burial site at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.

Emch, a "Devil Doc," died upon impact of an explosive device on March 2, while on patrol with the Marines in Anbar Province, Iraq.

According to his father, Wesley Emch, Luke Emch had been scheduled to leave the combat zone on March 3.

"He wanted to protect those who were protecting us," his father said of his son's military service.

Relaying the atmosphere of his son's bedroom at home, Wesley Emch said "he had two Marine posters, two Navy Seals, two world map posters, a U.S. map poster and also a pencil drawing of a crucifix." He said books included "Imperial Hubris and Patterns of Democracy," along with "(President) Bush playing cards which read 'a carefully stacked deck.'"

"I would describe Luke as a self-proclaimed Liberal Democrat," Wesley Emch said. "He hated inequities, and couldn't understand when people didn't do the right thing."

He said Luke Emch's part on a baseball team in his youth and the Navy as an adult suited him because he "liked being on a team, liked being with people with the same objective."

"He talked me into joining the Navy," said Jeff Nitzsche, a friend and 2004 high school classmate of Emch. Nitzsche said he drove up from Kings Bay, Ga. where he is stationed as a member of a security force.

"When I go over there (to Iraq), I wish Luke could be with me," Nitzsche said, "I'd trust him with my life."

Staff Sgt. Tony Leno of the U.S. Marine Corps, only knowing Emch for eight months, recognized Luke as a person who made him feel like they had "been friends forever."

Leno said Emch and other medics saved his life when he was severely injured by a bomb blast months prior. "I believe I am here to stay because of Luke. I owe my life to that man and his family," said Leno.

"I may have a dangerous job," Leno said, "but Luke as a Navy Corpsman, had the hardest ... and he volunteered for that."

Tallmadge High School students stood outside its entrance, single-file along both sides of East Avenue, along with close to 100 staff and bystanders where flags lined the procession route. The band, dressed in uniform, played a selection of songs including "God Bless America," the Navy Hymn, and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" when the procession came by.

"He was a good young man, always inquisitive and helpful," said Mike Householder, assistant principal at the high school. "He always wanted to help people."

High school teacher Kim Carlson was waving a flag she received when Tallmadge graduate Nate Deyarmin died. "He (Emch) was one of those kids who you are fortunate to know," Carlson said. "We need to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for us."

Strong support for the Emch family was evident as his funeral procession passed through Brimfield shortly before noon.

American flags at the Brimfield town square, Brimfield Police Department, Field schools and elsewhere flew at half-staff, while the intersection was planted with small flags.

More than 100 people lined Tallmadge Road in the town center as Emch's hearse -- escorted by Brimfield police and fire vehicles, Brady Lake, Akron, Tallmadge and Cuyahoga Falls police, the Ohio Highway Patrol and at least a dozen members of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group -- crossed S.R. 43.

As the procession passed by, the gathered crowd fell into a respectful silence, broken only by the whipping of American flags in the breeze. At the entrance to the Brimfield Plaza, a massive American flag hung from the ladder of a Tallmadge Fire Department truck. The procession passed directly under it as it continued to Sandy Lake Road past the family home.

Dee Pamer, owner of The Window Box in Brimfield and her sister Toni Kenney arrived early Monday morning in the town center to pay their respects along the roadside.

"I just feel for them," Kenney said of the Emch family as she waited for the procession. "I just feel so bad for them."

From the Courier

Eulogies Flow

Gus Dussel's farm, his John Deere tractor and a large American flag told the story of a community in mourning for Navy Hospitalman Lucas "Luke" Emch on Monday.

At the northwest corner of state Route 43 and Old Forge Road in Brimfield Township, Dussel and other family members watched as a hearse carrying the body of the 21-year-old Navy corpsman passed them on the way to Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.

Dussel, 80, is a World War II veteran of the Army in the Philippines. On his green tractor were two small flags and a sign that read "God Bless Luke From Dussel Farm."

And next to the tractor on Old Forge Road, several people held a big American flag.

"It's sad," Dussel said. "It brings back old memories."

Emch, a 2004 Tallmadge High School graduate, was killed March 2 in a roadside bombing in Iraq.

He was the second from his alma mater to have been killed in Iraq. In 2005, Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Nathan Deyarmin Jr., 22, a 2002 Tallmadge High graduate, was killed in the war.

Emch served in the Navy Reserve as a corpsman with Akron's Weapons Company Marine Reserve unit before going to active duty in the Navy.

His father, Wesley Emch, in a eulogy at the funeral in Tallmadge, talked about going to his son's bedroom after the family received news of his death.

There was a Ralph Nader poster there, as well as two Marine and two Navy SEAL posters, two pictures of the world and a U.S. map, the father said.

There was a pencil-drawn crucifix, a picture of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and books about the Navy and history and politics, Emch said.

His son, whom he described as a "liberal Democrat," recently got a tattoo with the Latin words that mean "strength with honor," his father said.

The younger Emch loved playing baseball and being on a team, which is one reason he joined the Navy, his father said.

"Luke was a patriot," Emch said. "He loved, supported and defended his country."

During calling hours Sunday, a group of elderly Marines walked in together and saluted his son's casket, Emch said.

"I cannot think of a greater honor," he said.

Marine Staff Sgt. Tony Leno, who served with Luke Emch in Iraq and was with him when he was killed, said Emch had saved his life just a few months earlier.

He told those at the funeral: "I stand before you a lesser man" because of the loss of Emch.

Leno called him "our guardian angel."

Corpsmen are Navy medics who serve with the Marines on the battlefield.

"I would like to publicly thank his parents for raising such a good man," Leno said.

He said the only reason he was speaking at the funeral was because of Emch's skills as a corpsman when he was injured.

"I owe my life to that man and his family," Leno said.

"I will always remember Luke as an opinionated, unselfish, courageous, funny man. My brother. My doc."

Along the inner ring of Tallmadge Circle, from Southwest Avenue to East Avenue, the student body of Tallmadge Middle School stood in silence as the funeral procession left the Donovan Funeral Home.

Emch's mother, Julie, teaches math and science at the school.

One group of students displayed a sign that read "Luke is Our Shooting Star." Others held flags. Many saluted or placed their hands over their hearts as the hearse drove by, passing under a 20-foot flag flown by a crane from Keller-Hall Inc.

Hundreds of others watched the procession with the students.

"I just felt I needed to be here just to give thanks," said Tallmadge resident SharonDuChene, who held a flag as the procession passed.

At the Brimfield Township intersection of Route 43 and Old Forge, the procession drove in front of the home of Harvey and Rita Barnett.

Harvey Barnett, 72, an Army veteran, knows what families go through during wartime. His grandson, Kyle Walter, served two tours in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan.

As the procession slowly drove in front of the Barnett home, he lifted his right hand and saluted the fallen sailor.

"How many more?" Barnett asked afterward. "It's just a shame. So young."

From the Journal

Related Link:
Lucas W.A. Emch dies of injuries from I.E.D.