Saturday, May 19, 2007

Kyle Little laid to rest

WEST BOYLSTON— Overcome with grief, Michael Little abandoned the pulpit and descended a few steps to his son’s flag-encased coffin on the sanctuary floor.

Mr. Little gently placed his hand on the casket, almost as if he were caressing the head of his 20-year-old son, U.S. Army Spc. Kyle A. Little, who died in action May 8 during his second tour of duty in Iraq. Then he found the strength to speak.

“There is no possible way you can measure the love for your son,” Mr. Little, of North Berwick, Maine, said as the capacity crowd of more than 300 in the First Congregational Church listened in a hush broken only by a few quiet sobs. “I didn’t ‘used to be’ Kyle’s dad. Kyle is my son, and I am his dad.”

Spc. Little, a fire support specialist killed by a roadside bomb in the southern outskirts of Baghdad, was remembered during the 90-minute service as a skilled soldier chosen for an elite security detail, and as a dedicated Boston Red Sox fan who had his favorite team’s name tattooed on his arm.

Born in Worcester and raised in West Boylston, Spc. Little was at least the eleventh person from Central Massachusetts to die in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A former player on the local high school varsity baseball team, he was also recalled as free-spirited and handsome — even as something of a “ladies’ man” — who had settled down recently and married, and was looking forward to having a son whom he could teach to play baseball.

Although he had dropped out of high school, he found his calling in the military.

The soldier’s widow, Tiffany Little of Fort Benning, Ga., who is due to have the couple’s child in November, was at the funeral with her parents and sister. His mother, Shelley A. Smith, along with many other members of Spc. Little’s family from Massachusetts, sat alongside them in the front pews.

Spc. Little was given a hero’s funeral with a military honor guard. Dignitaries included Gov. Deval L. Patrick; U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, a decorated veteran; and Maj. Gen. Elder Granger, a two-star general representing the Army’s chief of staff.

“He had an honorable job. He was hand-selected for a security team,” Maj. Gen. Granger, who served in Iraq at the same time as Spc. Little, said in an interview. “He was a highly motivated, outstanding soldier.”

Spc. Little had already done some thinking about heroism. As a teenager, he had penned a poem about the subject after the 1999 Worcester warehouse blaze in which six city firefighters died.

“All of those men … were definitely heroic,” he wrote. “When anyone gives their life for other people you must respect them. I will always honor these people, as long as I live.”

The Rev. Lee M. Atherton, pastor of Lakeview Congregational Church in Worcester, in her eulogy remembered being impressed when “this tall, handsome young man” accompanied his grandmother to church one Sunday.

Women gravitated toward him, not only because of his looks, but because they saw qualities in him they would want for their sons, the pastor said.

“The tragedy of 9-11 convinced him, like so many others, that he needed to do something for his country,” Rev. Atherton said. “The cost of war is great. It robs nations all over the world of their most precious asset — their youth. It also brings out the best in many.”

Even as a child, Spc. Little was thinking about military service.

Reproduced on the back of the funeral service program was a school essay he had written as a 9-year-old.

It was about Veterans Day and how much he admired his grandfather and other veterans.

“I feel thankful for the wonderful veterans that served for our country,” he wrote.

He received an A- on the essay.

After the service, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Patrick had some private words with Mr. Little. Then, as traffic backed up for a mile on Route 12, the funeral procession made its way to Mt. Vernon Cemetery.

From the Worcester Telegram

Related Link:
Kyle A. Little reported killed in Iraq