Thursday, May 24, 2007

John Self laid to rest

PONTOTOC - Air Force Staff Sgt. John Self was remembered by family and community Wednesday as "a good boy" and one of the "real heroes."

Fighting away tears, Laron Self, grandfather of the fallen soldier, described to a packed church what a good soldier, Christian and grandson the 29-year-old was.

"John was a good boy, a good boy who loved his country and who loved Christ and for that he'll move on to a better place," he said.

Hundreds of people filled almost every pew of the two-story West Heights Baptist Church to pay their respects to the Iraq casualty, killed May 14 by an improvised explosive device while serving his fourth tour in that war-torn country.

Self, a member of the 314th Squadron out of Little Rock, Ark., was known as a kind-hearted patriot to many.

When his flag-draped bier was carried into the church, many mourners were visibly affected. He is Pontotoc County's fourth soldier to die in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

"This is it," Julia Wash said as the casket was rolled to the sanctuary center. "He's gone and not coming back. It's hard to believe that a person his age could give so much for his country.

"Every time I ever saw him he had a smile on his face," she recalled. "I know he's somewhere smiling now."

But few tears were shed. Most people could be seen smiling as Bro. Don Smith, Self's longtime preacher, told stories of the soldier's childhood.

"John was a saint," said Smith. "But he sometimes got into scuffles with some of the other little saints after church when he was a boy. He was a good kid and a great man. He will be missed."

As the hundreds of cars pulled away from the church on their way to the Turnpike Cemetery where Self was buried, people lined both sides of the highway for more than five miles waving flags. Shouts of "We love you, John" and "Thank you, John" could be heard as the train of cars passed by.

"That's a hero," Susan Chambers said to her son Jamison as she pointed at Self's casket. "Not Michael Jordan, not Kobe Bryant, not Peyton Manning. The John Selfs of the world are heroes."

"I had to bring him here to see this," she said about her child. "We live in a society where our kids worship these athletes like their gods. But we have people like John out there putting there lives on the line so we can have freedom.

"They are the real heroes."

From the Daily Journal

Related Link:
John T. Self dies 'as result of enemy action'