Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Danny Soto laid to rest

Sgt. Danny R. Soto, who asked his mother to mail him candy so he could give the goodies to Iraqi children, was laid to rest in a military funeral in southwest Houston on Monday.

Family members and friends filled a chapel to capacity to honor Soto, 24, who was killed June 16 in Rashidiyah, Iraq.

During the service at the Forest Park Westheimer Funeral Home and Cemetery, Soto was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

"Even though he lived a short life in years, his legacy as a fallen soldier will live forever," Paul Castellano, a family friend, said at the funeral.

Soto moved to Texas from Honduras with his family when he was 11 years old. He joined the Army three years ago and was sent to Iraq in April. He leaves a wife, Vanessa, and son, Jonathen.

"Danny knew full well that he would be put in harm's way fighting an invisible enemy of mankind that seems to be everywhere and yet nowhere to be found," Castellano said.

Soto's pastor, Joe Rios, speaking through a translator, said Soto never left church on Sundays without tears in his eyes.

He never left without being moved in his heart by the Lord, Rios said.

"Danny Soto was a soldier, a good soldier," he said.

Following Rios' remarks, a video presentation showed Soto's life from a grinning youth in a soccer uniform to a proud man in an Army uniform.

Gen. Jeff Dorko said Soto possessed the finest qualities a soldier can have.

"Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," he said.

Dorko said he never met the young man but felt he had known him.

"I've seen him in your eyes. I think I understand him from the messages that have come from his unit in Iraq," Dorko said.

Dorko then read a letter from Soto's first sergeant in Iraq.

"For the short time that I have known him, Danny was the epitome of what a soldier and noncommissioned officer is supposed to be," the sergeant wrote.

Two days before Soto was killed, the sergeant allowed his men a few minutes for a quick shopping trip at the post exchange.

"Danny walked up to me with a bag and said, 'Happy birthday, first sergeant,' " the sergeant wrote.

In the bag was a cinnamon roll.

"I've been in the Army for over 16 years and no soldier has ever given me anything for my birthday. Danny was just a special person," the sergeant wrote.

"The army lost a great soldier and the world lost a great human being that day."

Soto was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based in Ft. Lewis, Wash.

He and Spc. Zachary A. Grass, 22, of Beach City, Ohio, were killed when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

Read the rest at the Houston Chronicle

Related Link:
Danny R. Soto dies 'of wounds suffered when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device'