Friday, March 30, 2007

Ray Holzhauer laid to rest

DWIGHT -- They stood shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the street.

The tiny American flags in their hands, and even full-size "Fourth of July" flags rescued from the depths of the hall closet, waved proudly as the processional passed block after block of grieving Dwight residents.

It was Ray Holzhauer's homecoming, Monday morning. It was a farm community's funeral tribute to one of its own -- Marine Lance Cpl. Raymond Holzhauer, who died March 15 at his base at Taqaddum, Iraq.

He was just 19.

"Did you know him?" a reporter asked Dwight's Patrick Meckley, a Navy veteran of Vietnam.

Meckley grips the corners of a sizable American flag he brought from home. It's the kind that flies from the porch on special occasions and national holidays. Today it's been pressed into service to bid farewell to one of the town's warrior sons.

Like many here, while they didn't know the youth personally, they knew of him. They knew he graduated from Dwight Township High School in 2005 and immediately enlisted in the Marines.

They knew he measured up. That he withstood the Marine Corps' infamous boot camp training and on graduation day was handed the coveted eagle, globe and anchor -- the symbol of the Corps.

And they knew that, as with so many others, he'd been assigned to combat in Iraq, a perpetually bloody land filled with religious hatred, anti-Western resolve and plenty of car bombs.

What they knew was that Raymond, who repaired small arms, was one of their own, gone in harm's way.

For Vietnam vet Meckley, saying farewell held deeper meaning.

"When we came back from the service, nobody cared that we came back or what happened to us when we did get back," Meckley said.

"I just wanted to make sure that we honored those who served their country," he said, raising his somewhat cumbersome flag as a car containing the Marine color guard passed by.

Meckley said such support shouldn't be taken to mean everyone in Dwight supports the war. But he wants there to be no doubt that he and others support the troops and honor those who, like Holzhauer, have given all they had to give.

And according to the Rev. James Rickey, "giving" was a characteristic commodity for the quiet, smiling kid from Dwight.

At the packed funeral service before the procession, participants shared observations about the qualities Raymond possessed and evinced, despite having so short a life in which to develop them.

White-shirted American Legion members, wearing black POW-MIA neckties, waited at "parade rest" in the aisles of the spacious St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

These men, veterans of World War II and Korea by the look of them, now waited to honor a "warrior grandson."

In the background, Pachelbel's "Canon in D" a beautiful melody traditionally used at wedding ceremonies, served as audio matrix for the solemnities that followed.

"We come today and we ask 'What now?'" said Rickey, adding "Always be grateful to the giver of the gift of life -- then give back. Give that life back generously and freely."

Despite his youth, Rickey noted, it was a grace Lance Cpl. Holzhauer had most evidently been given.

From the Times

Related Link:
Raymond J. Holzhauer killed in 'non-hostile' incident