Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Brandon Wallace laid to rest

FESTUS — Thousands of people lined the route of the funeral procession for Army Sgt. Brandon Wallace on Tuesday. They were young and old. Veterans and students. They carried flags and signs as they stood in respectful silence.

And some wiped away tears.

Wallace, 27, also known as "Bud," was the first soldier from Jefferson County to be killed in Iraq. He died on April 14 when a roadside bomb exploded near Fallujah. He was only two weeks away from coming home and had planned to become a police officer in Crystal City.

At the Living Faith Church, the Rev. Bryan Smith, a childhood friend of Wallace's, told a crowd of more than 300 about how the soldier prepared for his own death by making sure he was right with God.

He quoted the passages that Wallace had highlighted in his Bible and read notes Wallace had written next to them, including, "Everyone gets to go to heaven, but not everyone gets to stay."

During the funeral service, images of Wallace, known for his ability to make people smile during the darkest moments by cracking jokes and impersonating people, flashed behind his flag-draped casket as music played in the background.

Wallace's mother, Robin Wallace, discovered the titles to those songs, including "All That I Am" and "Beulah Land," in her son's planner shortly after she learned of his death.

At the end of the service, military officers presented Wallace's parents with medals that their son had earned, including the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

After the service, the more than mile-long procession began its journey along Highway A, to Collins Drive along Main Street in Festus, to Highway 61-67, to Telegraph Road and into Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

Along the way, residents paused to salute. Some shed tears. And others simply stood in respect.

Thousands of American flags waved in the wind, some held in the hands of those along the road, others planted in the ground and some draped across cars or suspended from fire truck ladders.

One man stopped his lawn mower to salute, leaving his yard half mowed until the procession had passed.

Students from area schools, including Crystal City High School, from which Wallace graduated in 1998, held signs that read, "Thank you Brandon," and "You are our hero." Local police and fire departments flew flags and also lined the streets to salute.

At the cemetery, Robin Wallace wept and cradled the folded flag from her son's casket.

Spc. Dawn Urbina, Wallace's fiancée, sat between his sisters, Rachel Tucker and Sarah Beth Wallace. Rick Wallace, Brandon Wallace's father, also clutched a folded flag.

As soldiers began to carry the casket to the burial site, Robin Wallace and her daughters paused about halfway and retreated to their car, unable to watch it lowered into the ground.

Rick Wallace, his wife, Lisa, and Urbina stood at the grave until the casket stopped its descent into the ground. Urbina had met Wallace in Iraq and met his parents for the first time last week. She has spent the past few days telling his parents how their son had dreams about his own death and meeting God.

"He always said he couldn't wait to come home," Urbina said.

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Related Link:
Brandon Wallace remembered

Related Link:
Brandon Wallace reported killed in Iraq