Friday, June 29, 2007

Jacob Tracy laid to rest

PALESTINE, Ill. — Levi Estock couldn’t make it to Palestine, Ill., like he wanted to on Wednesday. Just two weeks ago, he and his cousin, whom Estock considered like a brother, were both on the front lines in Iraq.

Estock’s cousin made it back home to the United States — but for the reason that every parent of a soldier dreads.

More than 320 people attended Army Pfc. Jacob Tracy’s funeral Wednesday afternoon in the Palestine Grade School. Tracy, 20, died June 18 in Balad, Iraq, from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle June 17 in Baghdad, a Department of Defense news release reported.

Although Estock, also in the Army, could not attend, his fiancee, Jessica Burggren, read his letter to the funeral crowd. Struggling to choke back tears at times, she read that Estock considered Tracy more like a brother than a cousin.

“He did not die because he did not want to live,” Burggren read to the crowd. “He died because he wanted you to live, free and safe.”

Tracy’s grandfather, Richard Houser, was the pastor that presided over the service. He led a prayer in which he asked for help for closure.

He told the crowd that his grandson was “full of energy, full of life” and that he “didn’t know a stranger.”

“He loved life,” Houser said, “and he was easy to call a friend to all of those who met him.”

Also during the service, Maj. Gen. Robert Williams, the commanding general at the Army Armor Center at Fort Knox in Kentucky, spoke to the crowd about how Tracy “unlike many people, was part of something much bigger than himself.”

“I, too, am proud of your son,” he said during the service, “and it is an honor for me to wear the same uniform that he wore.”

During the service, Tracy’s parents were posthumously awarded their son’s Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Garland Murphy, who identified himself as a fellow veteran, sang during the funeral service.

The quiet, small Illinois town showed support for the fallen soldier. Miniature American flags dotted the path traveled by the funeral procession from the Palestine Grade School to the Palestine Cemetery. Along the way, several dozen people stepped out in front of their homes or elsewhere along the path to show support.

One couple held their hands over their hearts as the procession passed. Some people, including several children, held American flags in support.

In the cemetery, a three-volley salute was staged in Tracy’s honor before “Taps” was played. Many people who attended the funeral service also traveled to the cemetery, and tried to huddle in the small green tents set up near Tracy’s casket.

A bagpiper played as the graveside service ended. Several people near Tracy’s casket embraced one another in hugs as the music played and people began to disperse.

Some of the military servicemen who attended then individually went up to Tracy’s casket, gave a salute and stood for a moment in silence before walking away.

From the Tribune Star

Related Link:
Jacob T. Tracy 'died June 18 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his vehicle June 17 in Baghdad'