Saturday, April 21, 2007

Todd Singleton laid to rest

In life, U.S. Army Sgt. Todd A. Singleton was once an unsung hero.

When he was no more than 13 years old, Singleton rescued a friend who had fallen through the ice from certain death.

Until Wednesday, the story was known only to Singleton's closest friends and family in Muskegon.

In death, Singleton -- who was killed in Iraq on Easter Sunday -- was once again being called a "hero," but this time for all to hear.

"Today we remember Sgt. Todd Singleton: husband, father, son, brother, uncle, soldier, hero. He was a great American," said Capt. John E. Kenny, the Michigan National Guard chaplain who presided at Singleton's funeral in Dalton Township Wednesday.

Singleton, 24, died of wounds suffered when his unit was ambushed outside Baghdad by enemy forces using explosives and small arms fire. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq -- and one of 10 U.S. soldiers killed Easter weekend.

"He died a hero, and I mean that in every sense of the word," Kenny said. "He laid down his life for his wife and daughter and all of us. He sacrificed his life in exchange for freedom and hope for a better tomorrow."

Kenny ministered to a congregation of 450 mourners who attended Singleton's funeral, performed with full military rites, at Fifth Reformed Church, 2330 Holton.

"We have the mission to honor him, so let's make Todd proud," Kenny said.

Seated among the fallen soldier's family and friends were veterans of the wars that preceded the one that took Singleton's life: World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. One by one, scores of veterans approached Singleton's casket draped in a U.S. flag to salute him.

"What are we to do at times like this when the world doesn't make sense ... when we're asked to put back the pieces of our broken hearts?" Kenny asked.

Turning directly to the spot where Singleton's family was sitting in church, the chaplain said: "Go to God with Todd."

Reminding them that "Todd was knit together by the hands of God," Kenny turned to Psalm 46 for a message of hope: "God is our refuge and strength."

As he spoke, members of the Patriot Riders -- a loose-knit group of veterans and other volunteers -- stood outside the church, holding U.S. flags in his memory.

"He is a national treasure," Kenny said from the pulpit. "It is an entire nation that grieves for him."

As the hourlong service unfolded, more details emerged about the man lost to war; a man who was scheduled to come home at the end of April on a two-week leave.

"He was honest, firm and assertive in his beliefs," Kenny said, "(but) he could turn anything into a joke. He was a smart aleck, although the family used slightly more colorful language than that to describe him."

Singleton, who attended Reeths-Puffer schools, served two tours of duty in Iraq. He was first deployed in 2004 and again in October 2006.

Singleton is survived by his wife, Stephanie; his 6-month-old daughter, Emma; his parents, Donna and Arthur Dykhouse and Douglas and Brenda Singleton, all of Muskegon; and seven brothers and sisters.

"Let God wrap his arms around you," Kenny told them.

They are not alone in their mourning, he assured them. Singleton's comrades still serving in Iraq are also grieving.

"We've lost one of our own," Kenny said. "The sad reality is (these) days are part of our military life."

Singleton was assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas. In Iraq, he was in the Alpha Warriors, Wolf Pack Platoon and drew duty in Sadr City, Baghdad, one of the war's most dangerous areas.

Once he got into a position of responsibility, Singleton "gained the reputation for being hard" on his soldiers, Kenny said.

"As we say in the Army, he smoked his soldiers," he said, "but that's because he cared about them."

Kenny also praised 25-year-old Stephanie Singleton.

"You are a shining example of a military spouse," he said. "He was able to do what he had to do because of what you did back here."

Singleton was deployed to Iraq just three weeks after the couple's daughter was born in October. Before going overseas, he drove his wife and baby home from Fort Hood to Muskegon to be with family "just in case" something happened.

"On that Easter Sunday, all that God had set out for Todd to do was accomplished. As we say in the army: Mission accomplished," Kenny said.

Then turning once again to prayer, Kenny offered these words before ending the church service: "We pray for peace and a day when all our soldiers may come home. May God bless you and give you his peace, strength and love, and God bless the U.S.A."

After the service, a funeral procession of 150 cars traveled across town to Sunrise Memorial Gardens, 2188 Remembrance, where Singleton was buried.

Mourners braved a relentless and cold drizzle during the outdoor ceremony at which military officials presented U.S. flags to Stephanie Singleton and her husband's parents.

An Army rifle squad fired a 21-gun salute, before a lone bugler played "Taps."

Kenny relied on the familiar words of Ecclesiastes to comfort those assembled at the grave site.

"For everything, there is a season," he said, "... a time to weep and a time to laugh ... a time to mourn and a time to dance ... a time for war and a time for peace."

From the Muskegon Chronicle

Related Link:
Todd A. Singleton dies after 'contact with enemy forces using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire'