Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ken Locker laid to rest

BURWELL, Neb. - An overflow crowd of more than 300 mourners attended Thursday's funeral for Army Staff Sgt. Ken Locker Jr., who was killed in a suicide bombing last week in Iraq.

Locker was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, the same division 26-year-old 1st Lt. Kevin Gaspers served with. Gaspers was killed in the same suicide bombing April 23. His funeral is Friday in Hastings.

St. John's Lutheran Church in Burwell couldn't hold all the mourners for Locker. Others stood in small groups outside the church, many of them waving American flags.

"A dear friend of mine was killed in Iraq in the war and I wanted to pay my respects to him and his family," said Christopher Wietzki, who grew up next door to Locker. "I hadn't seen him in a long time, and it was kind of hard getting the news about it."

About 70 riders with the Patriot Guard motorcycle riders, some from as far away as Colorado, lined the walk into the church.

"This soldier has made the ultimate sacrifice and we want his family to know that he hasn't done it for any lost reason," said Patriot Guard rider Herb Anderson of Lincoln. "There are people who respect what he has done and what he gave."

Military personnel carried Locker's casket out of the church. The funeral procession made its way through the town square and then to Cottonwood cemetery. Hundreds of people lined the streets, many waving flags as the procession drove past.

Locker and Gaspers were stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., before they were deployed to Iraq last August.

Locker graduated from Burwell High School in 1997, enlisting in the Army while he was still in high school.

Locker spent three years in the Army, then more than two years with the National Guard before re-enlisting in the Army.

Locker was injured in Iraq last fall by a land mine and was awarded a Purple Heart, said his father, Ken Locker Sr. The soldier had two or three pieces of shrapnel in his neck, and his hearing was damaged in the attack. He was transferred to desk duty for a month before returning to the front lines, his father said.

From the Beatrice Daily Sun

Related Link:
Kenneth E. Locker dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his location'