Monday, April 02, 2007

Wayne Cornell laid to rest

HASTINGS -- A tremendous hole that can never be filled has been seared into the Hastings area with the death of Sgt. Wayne Cornell of Holstein, Army chaplain Col. Rodney Armon said.

But while they couldn't fill that void, hundreds gathered Sunday to pay tribute to Cornell during funeral services at the Hastings City Auditorium and during the procession to Parkview Cemetery.

"We're all gathered with one purpose: to remember Wayne and say thanks for what he did, but that can't take the sadness away," Armon said.

Cornell, 26, and another soldier were killed March 20 in Baghdad, Iraq, when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle.

Gathered Sunday in Hastings were approximately 800 at the funeral service, with another 600 outside, including about 450 motorcycle riders as part of the Patriot Guard. A couple hundred more people waving American flags lined the streets leading to the cemetery.

That sadness Armon spoke of could be seen in the tears of Cornell's wife, Patricia, as she held their 5-year-old son, Dameion, and their 3-year-old daughter, Zoie. Patricia is expecting their third child, a daughter, in July.

Sgt. Cornell, Armon said, was "an instrument of peace," not only in Iraq but also in Bosnia and Afghanistan where he had also served.

"He was on a mission of peace," Armon said. "He didn't deploy to be an enemy, but to be a friend."

And as Holy Week is beginning, Armon said there was a reminder of Jesus and of resurrection. "We're not here to celebrate death, but the life God gives to his children," the chaplain said.

"There's a hole that will always be there, but God will take care of you," he said.

One of the most touching moments of the service was when about 50 service men and women lined up to individually salute Cornell's remains.

Cornell was a "good soldier, a good leader, a quiet professional who didn't beat his chest but did his job," said Sgt. 1st Class James Gallegos who was stationed with him at Fort Riley, Kan. "He was a good family man. Most important to him were his wife and kids."

Also paying honor were the 450 Patriot Guard riders, hundreds of whom carried flags. About 90 riders came from the Grand Island area, according to Greg Hanson of Grand Island, who was one of the riders. Others came from throughout Nebraska and from Kansas and Colorado, Hanson said.


"We wanted to honor the soldier and his family and show some respect," Hanson said.

Also paying tribute were Cornell's friends. "He was funny, disciplined and excellent at martial arts," said Lisa Novak of Hastings who was in tae kwon do with Cornell. "He was always patient when teaching people and especially worked well with kids."

Armon mentioned that Cornell had earned a black belt in tae kwon do and he won many medals in martial arts tournaments. However, many of those medals Cornell would leave at the grave of a friend who had died.

Letters from Cornell's family were also read. "Wayne, you are truly an American hero. Every time I see a flag, I'll think of you," wrote his sister JaNalle Gowlovech of Sioux Falls, S.D.

"Wayne, you sacrificed all for your country and family. When your children ask about their dad, we'll say you loved them very much," wrote his sister JaDeen Cornell of Blue Hill.

Even notes from his fellow soldiers were read. Julie Hale read one from her husband who had served with Cornell.

"He became my best friend," he said. "From the wooden hills of Bosnia to the snowy peaks of Afghanistan to the dust of Iraq, he was a warrior."

Brig. Gen. Jim Yarbrough of Fort Riley presented Cornell's family with a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a Combat Infantry Badge.

Yarbrough urged the family to hold on to their memories of Sgt. Cornell.

"Our focus should not be on the length of life but the depth, and Wayne lived a deep life. He touched many lives."

Yarbrough said Cornell gave the ultimate sacrifice in defending the American way of life. "Where do we find such a man?" Yarbrough asked. "We found one here in Hastings."

Cornell was born in Grand Island on August 3, 1980, to Larry Cornell and Pat (Christensen) Perrie. His grandmother, Darlene Christensen, lives in Grand Island. He graduated from Silver Lake High School in Roseland in 1999.

He had been a member of Troop A 167th Calvary of the Nebraska National Guard for four years where he was part of the mortar section. He joined the Army in 2005 at Fort Riley. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

From the Independent

Related Link:
Wayne R. Cornell dies of injuries from I.E.D.