Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Shawn Dressler laid to rest

ATHENS, Ga. - More than 100 people gathered in the sanctuary of Athens' Central Baptist Church for the funeral of Army Sgt. Shawn Dressler, killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

Sgt. Dressler was killed with another American soldier June 2 in Baghdad by an improvised explosive device, said Brig. Gen. Rick Porter, who attended the Thursday service and spoke briefly at the graveside portion of the funeral.

Sgt. Dressler was buried with military honors in Oconee Hill Cemetery, his body escorted by a detail of soldiers from Fort Gordon.

Sgt. Dressler, 22, hailed from Santa Maria, Calif., but not quite a year ago married a young woman from Athens who had grown up in Central Baptist Church, Amanda Bridges Dressler.

Like many who attended the funeral at the Danielsville Road church, former Central Baptist Pastor Jim Perdue didn't personally know Sgt. Dressler. Many church members came in sympathy for the widow's family.

Shawn and Amanda Dressler had planned to move into a house in Commerce when he returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq.

But the Rev. Perdue, who officiated at Thursday's services, learned about the young soldier from Sgt. Dressler's family, he said.

Sgt. Dressler was a playful, happy man, a loyal soldier and a loving husband, the minister said.

"The passing of a loved one is often unexpected and always difficult," the Rev. Perdue said.

People wept at the funeral service, punctuated by recordings of patriotic songs played on the church's stereo system, including Toby Keith's American Soldier.

The song's lyrics include the lines, "And I don't want to die for you, but if dying's asked of me, I'll bear that cross with honor, because freedom don't come free."

The service also included a recording of Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA and Athens musician Jackie Garrett's emotional rendition of Tim McGraw's I'm Already Home, a tribute to the families of slain soldiers.

Sgt. Dressler was a hero, the Rev. Perdue said.

"Anyone who risks his own life for others is heroic," he said.

But there was another side to Sgt. Dressler, the minister said.

"I'm told that Shawn was a funny guy," he said.

Sgt. Dressler would go out of his way to help people, and if he were at the funeral, he would be trying to cheer people up, the Rev. Perdue said.

An avid hunter and fisherman, Sgt. Dressler took his wife fishing for six hours on their wedding day, he said.

His love of the outdoors influenced the choice of a gravesite for Sgt. Dressler, the minister said. It sits at the edge of Oconee Hill Cemetery, on land that slopes gently down to the Middle Oconee River east of the University of Georgia campus near downtown Athens.

From the Augusta Chronicle

Related Link:
Shawn E. Dressler dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations'