Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mark Graham laid to rest

U.S. Army Pvt. Mark Graham kept his promise.

He came home.

There was time for his family to tell him goodbye and share in the final moments of his life, a life that was lived by a man remembered as a son, husband, brother, friend, athlete, soldier and hero.

"Mark truly wants this to be a celebration of his life," said Nick King, as he eulogized Graham on Monday during the funeral Mass. "Mark did what he wanted to do."
Graham was serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. On March 2, during a combat patrol in northwest Baghdad, Graham's unit was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Graham was the sole survivor of the attack.

He sustained severe injuries, third-degree burns on more than 60 percent of his body. Subsequent surgeries removed one of his kidneys and amputated both of his legs.

He died March 7 at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Graham was 22.

"Mark was a selfless person. He'd want to talk about the people he loved," King said.

Those he loved included his brothers.

Peter, "the big brother," showed everybody how it was done.

Steven and his wife, Ally, set an example that led Graham to his own soulmate and wife, Stephanie.

John introduced Graham to the guitar.

Then, there were his parents - Neil and Kim - who raised him to be an "incredible man."

"Uncle Neil, there is no doubt you were Mark's hero," King said.

He added that the other hero in Graham's life was his wife, Stephanie.

Graham saw the beauty in life and wasn't afraid of fighting for the sake of others, said the Rev. O. Joseph Breaux in his homily.

Breaux compared Graham's sacrifice to that of Jesus' and offered the family hope that Graham lives on in the promise of victory after death.

"Mark himself is not dead. Mark lives that life that Jesus has given to him," Breaux said. "He has done his great work and shares in the great victory of life itself - of becoming one with God."

As Graham's flag-draped casket was carried into the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, bells slowly tolled.

Outside the church, more than 60 eighth-graders from Cathedral-Carmel stood holding American flags.

Candy Martin joined them. She, too, held an American flag. Her son, Ryan, served in Iraq with Graham's brother, John.

"I'm amazed that the street is not lined with people with gratitude," she said quietly. "The street should be lined with American flags. That's what he deserves."

Graham's reputation as a soldier was exemplary, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Virgil L. Packett II, who presented an American flag to both Graham's wife and his mother. The family also was presented Graham's medals of honor and service.

"The zeal he represented became an inspiration to his unit," Packett said. "Mark served his country with a sense of pride. He was a natural leader, and he was out on point on that day of the IED. He was an expert reconnaissance soldier. He embodies everything we look for in not just an American soldier, but an American citizen."

Graham was inspired by his brother John's Iraq service in the Louisiana National Guard.

"Mark saw what John did and decided to follow, but Mark was not a follower," King said.

Graham was a responder, he added.

"A responder is someone who does what's right - regardless of who's looking or who gets credit for it," King said.

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Related Link:
Mark W. Graham dies of injuries from I.E.D.