Saturday, June 02, 2007

Joey Montgomery laid to rest

SCOTTSBURG, Ind. -- Army Sgt. Robert Joe Montgomery II, who died May 22 in Iraq, was borne to his grave yesterday by his favorite music, prayer and a full military honor guard.

A funeral and graveside service drew hundreds of mourners who celebrated the 29-year-old Montgomery's gift for poetry, his passion for the hard-rock group Nine Inch Nails, and the impact he left on tearful friends who huddled together around his silver coffin in a final goodbye.

"My son deserved that. I don't think it could have been any better," Gail Bond, Montgomery's mother, said of the day's events. "I don't think anything was left out."

Montgomery's burial capped a grueling week for the family of the airborne infantryman. Relatives in Indiana had to wait until the Memorial Day weekend while his wife and three children returned from the family's home at Fort Richardson, Alaska, and then wait until Tuesday before his body arrived from overseas.

Montgomery became the first soldier from Scottsburg to die in Iraq.

Relatives initially were told that Montgomery had stepped on a trip wire that detonated an explosion. But his older brother, Micah Montgomery, a member of the Army airborne who is stationed in Iraq, provided a different story, Bond said yesterday.

Joey Montgomery stepped on a homemade bomb made with sections of cardboard, Bond said, and when his foot lifted off the cardboard it triggered two explosive charges that killed him instantly.

Montgomery had survived a close call the night before he died, his mother said, when another bomb exploded near the phone booth where he had been speaking with his two oldest children, Robert Joseph III, 7; and Skyla, 9.

His wife, Missy, came on the line after more than 30 minutes. Moments after the couple began talking, Missy Montgomery heard a loud noise and her husband said, "Oh, my God, I've got to go," the soldier's mother said.

The line went dead, but Montgomery sent an e-mail to his wife later that night to report that he was OK.

To honor Montgomery, Scottsburg -- the Scott County seat whose mayor is Montgomery's uncle, Bill Graham -- held a homecoming processional when the body arrived Tuesday.

Yesterday, at least 50 Patriot Guard Riders, who provide escorts at military funerals, were on hand with several dozen Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel when Montgomery's flag-draped coffin was wheeled into Scottsburg United Methodist Church.

During a service dominated by country songs that included Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." and Toby Keith's "American Soldier," Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney announced that Montgomery had been awarded a Bronze Star for heroism, as well as a Purple Heart.

Vicki Wells, Montgomery's aunt, read a poem written by the soldier in which he wrote, "All I ask for is peace."

There was no eulogy, but the church's pastor, the Rev. Doug Wallace, reminded the overflow crowd that Montgomery was the first infant baptized at the church when it opened in 1977. Wallace urged friends and family to trust God's love and to believe that everlasting life awaits them.

"He served for me and you and for God and for country," Wallace said.

Following a funeral processional to Scottsburg Cemetery about two blocks from the yellow one-story home where Montgomery's mother lives, a graveside service featured all the honors -- a 21-gun salute, "Taps" played by an Army bugler, and "Amazing Grace" performed by a 10-piece bagpipe band.

White birds were released near the end of the service, along with 300 balloons provided by friends of the family.

"I wanted them to go to heaven, where Joey is," said Kay Haven, a friend of the Bond and Graham families.

During the burial service, Missy Montgomery leaned forward several times and covered her face with her hands. Her son and older daughter sat quietly by her side. Younger daughter Emma, 2, sat several rows back with relatives.

Friends of Montgomery received the family's approval to show up in black Nine Inch Nails T-shirts, and many dropped their heads and cried when the band's song "Hurt" was played as part of the service.

An exhausted Bond, speaking after the service, said she supports U.S. troops and would never be part of a protest like the one conducted by Cindy Sheehan, a soldier's mother who began a grassroots peace movement in 2005 by camping outside President Bush's Texas ranch.

But Bond said she's disturbed by the actions of leaders from both parties in Washington. "I'm not bad-mouthing anybody, but they're playing politics," Bond said.

She said her son's death has been heartbreaking enough without another death, referring to Army Spc. Clinton C. Blodgett of nearby Pekin. Blodgett was killed in Iraq last weekend.

"He was just 19," Bond said. "We've got men dying 24-7. … Let's get this fixed."

From the Courier Journal

Related Link:
Joey (Robert J.) Montgomery Jr. dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit'