Saturday, May 05, 2007

Dale Peterson laid to rest

BURNS -- Under a pale blue sky and the shadow of elms, an Oregon Marine was laid to rest today in the hilltop cemetery of his high desert hometown.

Hundreds packed the Holy Family Church, where two decades ago Lance Cpl. Dale Peterson was baptized, and later gathered in the grass at the Burns Cemetery to honor and mourn the Marine. Peterson was killed last month in Iraq.

"Today we add the name of Lance Cpl. Dale Peterson to those who gave up their young and promising lives to defend our country," said Gov. Ted Kulongoski. He spoke to family members, friends, police officers, Marines and others who gathered in a great ring around the casket at the graveside.

Peterson, 20, a member of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejeune, N.C., had been working as a combat engineer in Iraq for less than a month when his light armored vehicle was hit April 23 by a buried bomb in Fallujah.

At the service, Peterson's commanding officer described how Peterson and his four-man fire team were providing security for an assault force that had stopped to investigate a roadside bomb.

"Unbeknownst to Dale and his team another (bomb) was buried and cleverly hidden two feet below where his vehicle was parked," said Lt. Col. Mark Brennan. The bomb exploded with a terrible noise, killing Peterson and seriously injuring Lance Cpl. Johnathan E. Kirk of Belhaven, N.C., who died May 1 from his wounds.

Before the service, a formation of motorcycles rode down Broadway Avenue in Burns' downtown in the double missing man formation to honor Peterson and his friend. At the lead was Peterson's wife, Lance Cpl. Regina Peterson, who rode on the back of a Harley-Davidson driven by another Marine in uniform.

Dale Peterson attended high schools in Corvallis, Stayton and Redmond before gaining enough credits through classes in the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council's education program to earn a diploma from Redmond High School in 2005.

But Burns, where his mother lives, was his hometown, and the trauma in the Harney County hamlet was evident today.

Peterson is the first person from Burns, population 2,755, killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Across town, flags flew at half-mast and reader boards like that at the Comfort Inn bore memorials to Peterson and his family. Red roses were woven into a chain-link fence beside U.S. 20.

"Dale Peterson is a hero, but he did not become a hero when he died. He became a hero when" he joined the Marines in 2005, said the Rev. Thomas Scanlon, who baptized Peterson.

At the graveside service, Brennan said that "Petey," as his fellow Marines christened him, was known for his humor, skill and loyalty.

"He was always smiling and cheering up his former Marines when they were down," Brennan said. "Dale was a man that was deeply loved by many."

After Brennan's comments, a seaman in Navy whites played taps and a Marine honor guard fired cracking rounds skyward as Peterson's wife saluted the flag-draped casket before her. Then the flag was removed, folded and handed to her.

From the Oregonian

Related Link:
Dale Peterson remembered

Related Link:
Dale G. Peterson killed 'while conducting combat operations'