Saturday, April 21, 2007

Levi Hoover laid to rest

MIDLAND - The silver and black hearse leading a mile-long procession of cars rolled slowly through the streets toward Midland Cemetery.

Along the route on Tuesday, young and old waved flags, placed their hands across their hearts and held up signs honoring a fallen son.

In front of a small gray house on Ashman, a large blue sign sat on the curb with small American flags surrounding it.

"Thanks for your service Spc. Levi Hoover," it read.

"I didn't know him personally, but (I served in) Vietnam, so I knew him," said the homeowner, Ken Soney, 60, a U.S. Marine from 1964-1968.

Hoover, 23, a 2002 Dow High School graduate, was one of four soldiers who died when an improvised explosive device detonated near their unit in Zaganiyah, Iraq, on April 7. A private first class, he served with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Family, friends and those who simply wanted to pay their respects were among the 400 mourners attending the funeral.

An Army honor detail of about 20 soldiers traveled from Fort Bragg to participate in the military service. Honor Guard members, all veterans of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, said such assignments are not easy.

"We want to give the most honor possible to the fallen soldier and their family," said

Spc. Joshua Keatts, 29, who was among those rendering a 21-gun salute at the cemetery. "This one is especially difficult; we had more time (than usual) interacting with (Hoover's) family."

Honor guard members arrived in Midland on Friday.

"This never gets old," said Pfc. Andrew Erbaugh, 20, the youngest of the Honor Guard and on his eighth funeral. "Each one is difficult and equally hard. I've seen tears in the eyes of guys."

Brig. Gen. Tom Cole called Hoover a motivator with the ability to find humor in tough situations.

"When things got tough, Levi would make a comment to get everybody focused again," Cole said.

To honor Hoover, Chaplain Lt. Col. Howard Lucas told mourners not to forget how to laugh because laughter will honor Hoover, who loved fun.

"He knew how to enjoy God's creation," Lucas said. "He had a passion for life and laughter."

Hoover had the kind of personality where he gave his all, longtime friend Jake Pena said before the funeral, at which he also spoke.

"If he couldn't give 110 percent, he wouldn't do it," said Pena, 23, of Midland, who met Hoover when both wrestled for the seventh-grade Jefferson Middle School team.

"Everybody always tells you that you're lucky to have five good friends," Pena said. "He was one of the five guys who would have been in my life."

From the Bay City Times

Related Link:
Levi Hoover remembered

Related Link:
Levi Hoover dies of injuries from I.E.D.