Saturday, June 02, 2007

Joseph Anzack honored at memorial service ahead of burial at Arlington

He took the field one last time, Number 52.

His whole team was there with him, his coaches, even the school band.

The stands were packed as ever - family, friends, fans. But on this Friday night, instead of screaming his name as they had so many evenings past, they stood silent to show their gratitude.

"God bless you, Joe!" a lone voice rang out from the quiet crowd as the flag-covered casket carrying Cpl. Joseph Anzack Jr. entered the football stadium at Torrance's South High School in a horse-drawn hearse.

Found dead in Iraq on May 23, infantryman Anzack was missing for 11 days. His patrol was ambushed south of Baghdad, an attack that left five men dead, and Anzack and two others captured by al-Qaida.

A search continues for the two still missing.

Anzack was given a posthumous promotion from the rank of private first class to corporal. He was also awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

He will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery.

About 2,000 people came to honor the young soldier on Friday night, staying on their feet as the carriage made a slow, somber lap around the track. His immediate family then entered on foot, watching with tear-streaked faces as six Army pallbearers carried the casket onto the field.

It sat beside an oak lectern draped with Anzack's old jersey, gleaming white with dark green numbers.

The gridiron was a fitting place to play tribute to the 2005 South grad, a former standout noseguard for the Spartans, who for two hours was eulogized by former coaches and teammates as a quiet, dedicated kid, known for his passion and loyalty - both on the field and off.

"He was a damn good guy with great character and a big heart," said former teammate Dan Garcia. "As a human being, he inspired me to be better."

From the Daily Breeze

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