Sunday, April 08, 2007

Anthony White laid to rest

Harry White followed his son’s flag-draped casket through Greenlawn Funeral Home Chapel on Thursday with his sobbing wife at his side.

White wore his old dress-blue Army uniform that should have been hanging in a closet.

“When I retired, I told my wife the only time I want to put this uniform on again is when I’m buried,” White said during his son’s funeral. “Well, a part of me has died.”

More than 500 people gathered Thursday afternoon to mourn Pvt. Anthony James White, 21, who died March 25 in Iraq. He was a mechanic in the 82nd Airborne Division.

White was one of four soldiers killed when a bomb ripped through their patrol just northeast of Baghdad. He was midway through his first tour in Iraq.

Anthony White joined the Army two years ago to follow in his father’s footsteps. Harry White is a retired command sergeant major who also served in the 82nd Airborne.

After enlisting, the young soldier would call his father “sergeant major.”

“I told Anthony, ‘I’m your dad.’ He’d smile at me and say, ‘Yes, sergeant major.’”

The story drew a few quiet laughs from those gathered for the younger White’s funeral.

But mostly, the sniffles and sobs of unbearable grief filled the room as fellow soldiers, friends and family took turns speaking about the dead soldier.

The funeral service began with a soldier calling roll. When he shouted, “Pvt. White. Pvt. White. Pvt. Anthony White,” there was no answer. Instead, crying filled the silence in the chapel.

Then, a military bugler played taps as another soldier recited The Soldier’s Creed.

Tears rolled down cheeks. Women dug into their purses for tissues, and men hung their heads.

Fellow soldiers, friends and relatives took turns speaking about Anthony White.

He was remembered as a young soldier with a big smile.

A friend who wanted success for his buddies.

A sweet fiance.

A brother who was a best friend.

And a son who put family first.

White’s fiancee, Ashley Bailey, 19, barely could speak as she spoke about meeting him when she was a freshman at Richland Northeast High School. White, who went by the nickname “Amp,” was a senior on the basketball team.

“He was really sweet and cute,” she said. “Anthony, I will always love you.”

White’s older brother, Randy White, took deep breaths to steady himself as he joked about sibling squabbles that really didn’t mean anything. He described Anthony White as being a best friend.

“I really love you. I really do. I know you’re going to be standing next to me in life.”

Kenneth Whaley, a high school friend, stood with six other men and promised to help the White family keep their soldier’s memory alive. His voice cracked as he fought through tears.

“Anthony, my brother, on behalf of all of us here today, rest in peace,” Whaley said.

“We love you.”

Read the rest at the State

Related Link:
Anthony J. White dies of injuries from I.E.D.