Saturday, June 09, 2007

Thomas McFall laid to rest

RIVERSIDE - Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Michael McFall was remembered Friday as a man who cared deeply for his country, family and friends. He served as a father figure to many of the young men in his platoon.

McFall, who attended Matthew Gage Middle School and Poly High School in Riverside, was killed May 28 when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on foot patrol in Baghdad. The 36-year-old soldier was a member of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based in Fort Lewis, Wash.

"Everybody loved him and respected him. Some people are loved. Some are respected. He had both," said McFall's father, Thomas A. McFall of Riverside. "At 36, Tom was kind of like the old man. He was someone people could count on, people could trust."

About 150 mourners attended the funeral at Riverside National Cemetery to say goodbye to the career soldier. Services included the playing of taps and a volley salute.

McFall's 7-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, clutched the triangle-folded flag that had covered her father's coffin and sobbed during the playing of "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes.

McFall's family was presented with his medals: the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service; Purple Heart for combat wounds; Army Commendation Medal for act of heroism; Expeditionary Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and Iraq Campaign Medal.

Sgt. Armando Martinez said McFall served as a father figure to many of the younger men he served with. McFall was always willing to help a fellow soldier and would council those who had marital or financial problems, Martinez said.

"You had a problem, he was the guy to go to. You could count on him to cheer you up," said Martinez, 24, of Norwalk.

Martinez escorted McFall's remains from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to March Air Reserve Base.

"Before they all left (for Iraq), they wrote out a piece of paper saying who they wanted to escort their remains. He put my name," Martinez said. "When I found out he was dead, I was hurt. He was my mentor. He was my friend."

McFall would often invite single soldiers to his home on holidays so they would not feel alone or forgotten, said his widow, Emily McFall.

Emily McFall and the couple's children, Austin, 15; Elizabeth, 7; and Matthew, 3, live in Fort Lewis but plan to return to her hometown of Hoover, Ala.

From the Press Enterprise

Related Link:
Thomas M. McFall dies 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol'