Saturday, June 09, 2007

Matthew Baylis laid to rest

As a steady rain fell Saturday, Pfc. Matthew Baylis was laid to rest at Calverton National Cemetery, nine days after he died in Iraq.

Friends and family gathered before the private burial for a military funeral, held in a secluded area of the cemetery.

Against a backdrop of American flags held aloft by volunteers, an honor guard folded the flag draped over Baylis' coffin. Rifles fired thrice. A bugler played "Taps."

"His service and his sacrifice and his life will not be forgotten," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey in his eulogy. "His service lifted up his life."

Baylis, 20, of Oakdale, died May 31 after being shot the day before while on foot patrol in Baghdad, officials said. He is the 26th Long Islander killed in the war, which has claimed 3,506 American lives through yesterday, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.

Army Spc. James Lundin, 20, of Bellport, the 25th to die, was buried at Calverton National Cemetery Wednesday, a week after being killed in Iraq.

Both soldiers were posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Baylis, a 2005 Connetquot High School graduate, had once dreamed of serving in the military but gradually grew disenchanted with the war after his October deployment, his family said. Days before he was shot, he sent a promise ring to his girlfriend of three years, Lisa Laura.

At the memorial service before the funeral, Susan Lyons, Baylis' aunt and godmother, recalled an irresistible young man.

"Were there any of us who could resist that grin and those amazing blue eyes?" she said to the several hundred mourners packed into St. John's Lutheran Church, in Sayville, where Baylis was baptized and confirmed.

Calling him "a picture of what love is supposed to look like," Lyons said Baylis left behind beloved memories for his family and friends: going tubing on the Connetquot River, spending Thanksgivings together, exploring the Sunken Forest, allowing his cousins to play dress-up with him.

A pleasant discovery of late, she said, was that her nephew had a romantic side; Baylis often hid notes in his girlfriend's purse or room for Laura to find later.

Among Baylis' other loves: wrestling, playing the drums, He-Man, the History Channel, dinosaurs, "Braveheart" and "The Da Vinci Code," Lyons said.

Baylis' body arrived in Long Island Wednesday from Dover, Del. Yesterday, as the hearse neared Calverton, it passed under a half-dozen enormous American flags extended from volunteer fire trucks.

At the cemetery, a pastor drew the funeral to a close by intoning, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

Then Baylis' parents, Richard and Laurie, kissed the top of their son's coffin. Like many other family members, Richard wore a button bearing a photo of Baylis.

Baylis' older brother, Marc, and other mourners followed, making the sign of the cross or resting their hands on the coffin as they filed past.

"He's a hero," said Adam St. Nicholas, 20, who grew up with Baylis.

"Matthew," Lyons concluded her eulogy by saying, "we will cherish you in our hearts and love you always until we meet again.

"See you later, our beautiful, beautiful boy."

From Newsday

Related Link:
Matthew E. Baylis dies 'of wounds suffered on May 30 when his dismounted patrol encountered enemy small arms fire'