Saturday, March 17, 2007

Paul Latourney laid to rest

Staff Sgt. Paul M. Latourney knew at an early age that his duty was to serve his country, say his family and friends.

Latourney, 28, of Roselle, Ill., died March 2 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during a combat patrol, according to military officials. Spec. Luis O. Rodriguez-Contrera, 22, of Allentown, Pa., also was killed in the explosion. Both soldiers were members of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Calvary Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division from Fort Hood, Tex.

"There wasn't a more noble person. He had the biggest heart you could imagine," Latourney's father, Paul, told the Chicago Tribune.

Friends, relatives and fellow soldiers, one of whom made his way to the burial site with the help of a cane, laid Latourney to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Army Honor Guard held the flag that was draped over his coffin taut in the wind as Maj. Eric Albertson, an Army chaplain, prayed. A seven-member rifle squad fired three volleys before a bugler, standing among the white headstones, played taps.

Latourney's mother, Maria Teresa, crumbled over the flag presented to her by Maj. Gen. Michael Symanski. The soldier's widow, Jessica, slowly placed a second flag in her lap and ran her fingers over the stars. His young son, Isaiah, quietly watched his mother. Latourney's younger sister, Anna, who also served in the Army, cradled a third flag next to her heart as she wept.

Andy Livingston, Latourney's German teacher at Lake Park High School in Roselle, where Latourney graduated in 1997, described him as a leader who was quiet and unassuming.

"He went about his business but was very sincere about helping kids" in class, said Livingston. He said Latourney's German skills were advanced because he had lived in Germany before moving to Roselle.

Latourney was born in Atlanta and moved to Germany with his family when he was 3. The family moved to the Chicago suburbs in 1994, according to news reports.

"Throughout his junior and senior year, he was always very quiet and very focused," said Timothy Noverini, assistant principal at Lake Park High. Noverini, also Latourney's cross-country coach, said he believed that during his last two years of high school, Latourney "knew he was going to go into the military."

"When you are in education, you always think of your students as kids," Noverini said. "It was heartbreaking when you see his picture in the paper. . . . Here you see your kid with their own kid, and it just breaks your heart."

Latourney joined the Army in April 1997 as a cavalry scout. By the time he graduated from high school, he had finished basic training, according to news reports quoting his father.

This was Latourney's second tour in Iraq. He served in Tikrit, Iraq, from February 2004 to February 2005, according to his father.

"He knew the risks," his father told the Tribune. "That's real bravery -- when you know the risks and you control the fear and do what you've got to do."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Related Link:
Paul M. Latourney dies of injuries from I.E.D.