Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Michael Vaughan laid to rest

LINCOLN CITY -- This tourist town belonged Tuesday to Sgt. Michael Vaughan as more than 500 family, friends and strangers filled St. Augustine Catholic Church and spilled out the door to honor one of their own.

Vaughan, 20, of nearby Otis, died April 23, one of nine paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division killed in a suicide truck bombing in Iraq. The bombing also injured 20 soldiers and marked the largest single death toll for the 82nd Airborne since the Vietnam War.

Vaughan was a man of commitment, compassion and courage, said Capt. Michael Herring, an Army chaplain with the 18th Airborne Corps.

"We're not talking about physical courage," Herring told those gathered. "Michael had that. He was a paratrooper, and we say that comes with the wings. But Michael had a rare form of courage, the courage to be himself and know what he believed in. He was a man of character."

Herring spoke of a young man who loved wrestling, shooting, hanging at the mall and driving his truck. He might have gone on to a career in law enforcement.

"Sgt. Michael Vaughan was and will always be one of those better men," Herring said, his voice breaking.

Maj. Gen. Kathleen M. Gainey presented Vaughan's parents, George and Debra Vaughan of Otis, with a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Good Conduct Badge and the Combat Action Badge, awarded posthumously to their son.

Support for the Vaughans was obvious on almost every block in the town of nearly 7,500, with signs thanking the "fallen hero" for his sacrifice. Flags framed the church along three city blocks, and neighboring parking lots and streets were filled bumper-to-bumper with the cars of those who came to pay their respects.

"A lot of us have been here over a week," Herring said. "We were greatly impressed with the community and its patriotism. It took us by surprise but it was a wonderful surprise, and we thank you for that."

Vicki Fry, a Lincoln City resident, said she didn't know Vaughan or his family but came to the funeral in a show of solidarity.

"You just want to support them," she said, noting that she has a nephew on his second tour with the Army in Afghanistan.

Vaughan was the third man from Lincoln County to die in Iraq in less than two months. Marine Lance Cpl. Nathanial Windsor, 20, of Newport died March 11 from a bullet wound. Army Sgt. Nicholas Lightner, 29, of Toledo died March 21 from injuries from a land mine blast March 15.

"Oregonians have heard your stories and wrapped their arms around you," Gov. Ted Kulongoski told the crowd.

Dressed in an Army uniform, Vaughan's father, a veteran of the Gulf War, thanked people for their support.

"I have to say I was in shock how this community and how this state rallied behind us," George Vaughan said. "Michael would be very proud. I wish all of you would say a prayer for his fellow comrades and all their families going through this, too."

An hour after it began, the service ended with the packed church standing to sing "God Bless America." Then the crowd filed out and headed to St. Paul, where Vaughan was buried with full military honors at St. Paul's Catholic Cemetery.

From the Oregonian

Related Link:
Mike Vaughan remembered

Related Link:
Michael L. Vaughan dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his location'