Saturday, March 03, 2007

Travis Buford laid to rest

The first Nacogdoches County soldier to die in Iraq, Spc. Travis Wayne Buford, was remembered Saturday as a fun-loving family man and a dutiful soldier by his family and Army officers.

Several hundred friends and family attended an afternoon service at Laird Funeral Home for Buford, 23, who died Feb. 22 in Al Anbar Province, a dangerous area of western Iraq. A gunner in the Multi-National Force-West, Buford's armored vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device, killing him and two other men.

For his duty, Deputy Commanding General William F. Grimsley presented Buford's mother, Janet (Fields) Buford, with two medals, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

His family remembered him for his love of four-wheelers, good times with friends and golf with his father.

An Army chaplain, Capt. Josseph Schrock, spoke of a soldier's duty, honor and love for country.

"Duty is hearing a call to service and whether or not you answer that call," he said. "Did Travis do his duty? You would have to say, yes."

After following the progress of the war in Iraq, Buford and his best friend and cousin, Joshua Thompson, joined the Army on the same day a couple of years ago, Buford's mother said. He was stationed in Colorado, and he left for Iraq in October. The Red Cross flew Thompson to Texas for the funeral.

Buford's family added a personal touch to the memorial. While the chapel's pews filled, Buford's favorite music — Metallica and patriotic country songs — quietly played while a slide show presentation featured photos of the fallen soldier smiling with buddies. The pictures showed him arm-in-arm with his friends and family and playing in the bathtub as a child. More somber photos were of his comrades in Iraq, and Buford standing seriously in his khaki uniform.

When mourners approached his casket, they saw the bottom, closed and half draped with an American flag. At the top, next to Buford, two smaller flags hung off the edge: a Texas flag and a Confederate battle flag.

Lying in his Army blues, Buford wore a black beret. His hands, covered in white gloves, were clasped to his chest while he held a longneck bottle of Lone Star beer, eulogized as his favorite drink.

His father, Anthony Buford, wore a yellow baseball cap with his shirt and tie, and relayed a message from his son: "Weep not for my death, but celebrate my life," he said. "My cup runneth over. Have a drink on me. Party on and rock out, Travis."

As funeral goers walking by the casket, a recorded bagpipe version of "Amazing Grace" played over the sound system.


Outside the funeral home, in the bright sunlight and clear sky, 75 motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the motorcade on the 17-mile trip to the Douglass Cemetery.

"We're here to let this family know that the nation is still behind them," said Rollie Winfree of the Patriot Guard, his voice shaky.

Boy Scouts lined South Street holding flags. Veterans in their dress uniforms stood stiffly in salute for the hearse. Women held signs: Thank you and We support our troops. Area law-enforcement officers stopped traffic at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 59 and South Street, and two Nacogdoches police officers and one county deputy saluted each car that passed.

Along the roadside of state Hwy. 21 to Douglass, truck drivers stood on the edge of their semis to hold their hands over their hearts. At FM 225, where the procession turned north to the cemetery, a cluster of cars stopped, their drivers waving flags.

Final resting place

A cool wind blew from the north at Douglass Cemetery, whipping the 40 flags that encircled Buford's grave.

Schrock prayed and read the 23rd Psalm while the crowd whispered along. Seven soldiers fired a rifle salute south of the crowd, and another played "Taps" on a silver trumpet.

The six pallbearers from Texas' Fort Hood slowly folded two flags and handed both to Grimsley, who gave one to Buford's mother, and the other to the fallen soldier's father.

"Joining the Army is a lifelong commitment, and it doesn't matter if you serve three years or your whole life, if you die in service or live. He's always a soldier," Grimsley said before the funeral. "They choose to do something different. They choose to become soldiers."

The service concluded when a woman released a dove, which flew to the north, circled the cemetery and flew south over the budding trees.

From the Sentinel

Related Link:
Travis W. Buford dies of injuries from I.E.D.