Friday, March 30, 2007

Terry Prater laid to rest

Mourners from several states assembled in New Tazewell, Tenn., Sunday evening and Monday afternoon to pay their last respects to Staff Sergeant Terry Prater. Prater, an Auxier, Ky., native and resident of Speedwell, Tenn., was killed in action while serving in Iraq Thursday, March 15.

Two color guard soldiers stood in silent attention over the remains of Prater Sunday, being relieved every twenty minutes by two more soldiers. His remains were surrounded by many of Prater's fondest belongings: fishing gear, including poles and tackle, flowers arrangements adorned with small mouth bass decorations, Prater's waders, and teddy bears.

Eight US soldiers traveled to Tennessee to mourn Prater. Some of them took the stand or sent notes from Iraq. They recalled their experiences with their fallen friend. They spoke of his love for fishing, saying, “I believe it was out there he found his peace.” They spoke of his devotion to his children, recalling his five-year-old son Bryson as “his best friend” and that almost two-year-old daughter Madison would “never be able to have a boyfriend. Ever.”

Pastor Jimmy Hagerman, who officiated the service, compared Prater's sacrifice to the Christian experience, quoting from the Bible, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Hagerman compared the Biblical death of Christ to the death of Prater saying, “He gave the ultimate sacrifice for you and I.” He spoke of Prater's death as, “a living testimony the kind of person Terry was.”

He also spoke of the cost of freedom's liberties that are taken for granted. They are “young men giving their lives so we may go on about ours as if nothing is happening,” Hagerman said or Prater and others who have died in service. “Their sacrifice for freedom allows the American citizen to enjoy our possessions,” Hagerman said.

Those in attendance included the soldier Prater saved from possible death during his first tour in Iraq.

“If it weren't for your son, I wouldn't be here today,” These words were tearfully expressed by Sgt. Tim Ngo to Prater's father, who had Ngo flown to the memorial service.

Ngo was saved from harm by Prater when his troops came under attack in 1994. This action brought considerable injury to Prater because of a second grenade that exploded after he had thrown Ngo free.

Ngo approached the podium with notes in hand. He started with “What if,” and then paused. He told the audience he had written a page he wanted to read but that he could not, saying again, “If it weren't for your son, I wouldn't be here today,” and then stepped down.

Many mourners stood during the service in order to view a slide show presentation which included literally dozens of photos of Prater and his family and friends. Most of those photos caught the young soldier with a smile and or in an embrace of his family. Many captured him holding a fish.

Staff Sgt. Terry Prater's remains were laid to rest Monday afternoon following a funeral procession that sometimes stretched more than a half mile. Mourners were lead by members of the Patriot Guard, a multi-association bikers group, which was formed to counter the Westboro Baptist Church protests against the fallen members of the U.S. military. Associations included in the group included the Christian Motorcyclist Association, Shiloh Riders Association, and US CAV (Citizens Aiding Veterans)

With U.S. flags attached to their bikes, the Patriot Guard lead the procession for more than 40 miles, often slowing to allow those who stood along side the roadways to pay respect to Prater. Several citizens along the East Tennessee thoroughfares stood in attention, saluted, or raised American flags in homage to Prater. The procession lasted over an hour and met with many hundreds of people paying homage and nearly all opposing traffic was stopped.

One particular school, Livesay Middle School in Harrogate Tenn., had well over 200 hundred students standing along side of the hill, each holding flags, many with hands over their hearts.

Just after mourners gathered at the lake, a 21 gun salute echoed off the waters of Norris Lake and was immediately followed by Taps and a flag presentation to the members of his family. A small host of friends and family then boarded boats and pontoons to travel into open waters were Prater's ashes were scattered, fulfilling Prater's final wishes.

A statement read for Amy Prater during the memorial service said, “The next time anyone goes fishing, cast a line for Terry.”

From the Daily News

Related Link:
Terry W. Prater dies of injuries from I.E.D.