Saturday, June 02, 2007

Benjamin Desilets laid to rest

ELMWOOD - Last year, Ben Desilets and his Marine buddy, the one they called Joey Dubbs, leaned on each other when their friend Kyle Price was killed by small arms fire while on combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq.

On Friday, although he had the support of his large extended Marine family, Joey Dubbs in some ways mourned alone. He said Desilets saved his life.

"I feared no evil when I had you by my side," the Marine said during funeral services for Desilets, 21, the 2004 Elmwood High School graduate who was killed May 22 in Iraq's Anbar province. "We went through hell and back, but Myrtle Beach and Disney World, too. We were together on the day that Kyle died."

Finally on Friday, the use of the word "ornery" to describe Desilets - as many family members and friends have used since his death - began to make more sense. The picture of public record of Desilets

that everyone saw on TV and in the newspaper was the stern, no-nonsense, all-guts glare of a newly installed Marine. But on the front of the memorial card that rested on the laps of 250 mourners was a photo of Desilets in a T-shirt and ball cap, a smile on his face, an arch to the eyebrows and a light in his eyes that hinted at trouble. If not trouble, then mischief. If not mischief, then fun.

"Give Ben a car and he wrecked it twice in short order," said his uncle, Rob Beckman. "We used to think Ben would never make it to 12. Then 13. Then 14. In the end it was a short life, but he packed the maximum amount of living into the time he had."

Beckman said the family placed Desilets on neither side of the public debate over the war in Iraq.

"What better goal than giving the gift of democracy to an oppressed people," he told the gathering and attached Abraham Lincoln's "last full measure of devotion" to his nephew's sacrifice. "There is nobility in those goals and they are worth fighting for. While the debate goes on, our leaders must support the actions (of the troops)."

After the hourlong service, Desilets' flag-draped coffin was wheeled up the high school auditorium's ramp, then carried to the white hearse parked in front. The hearse, followed by a procession of cars, slowly made its way out of Elmwood past crowds of residents who had gathered on the downtown sidewalks to honor Desilets. The procession passed beneath an enormous American flag suspended from the top of two extended ladders on fire trucks parked on either side of Magnolia Street in front of the fire station.

At Fondulac Township Cemetery, the morning fog had lifted, but not very high. Desilets' mother, Brenda Beckman-Desilets, watched as the casket was moved by six Marine pallbearers in their dress blue uniforms from the hearse to its spot above the gravesite. Family members were escorted to rows of chairs directly in front of the casket. The Rev. Rory Bond led the gathering in prayer.

Seven Marines fired three volleys each in the traditional military 21-gun salute. Beckman-Desilets jumped at each volley. She was presented with the flag that was draped on her son's casket and folded into a precise and meticulous triangle by her Marine escort.

"Taps" followed as an out-of-sight bugler blew the mournful notes that typically signify the end of the day. A piper played an increasingly distant "Amazing Grace," until the hymn vanished completely in the breeze. Cicadas and the sound of flags popping in the wind filled in the silence.

Following a short prayer, the funeral director announced the conclusion of the burial ceremony. No one moved.

Beckham-Desilets dropped her head into her open palms and sobbed. At that moment, no day could feel more done than that day felt.

From the Peoria Journal Star

Related Link:
Benjamin Desilets remembered by mother

Related Link:
Benjamin D. Desilets dies 'while conducting combat operations'