Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Will Newman laid to rest

Family and friends of a fallen Iraqi War soldier gathered in Highland on Tuesday to celebrate a life cut short.

William Nathaniel Newman, 23, a graduate of Lone Peak High School, was killed while dismantling an explosive trap in Iraq in early June. He was a member of an explosives disposal team from the 15th Civil Engineer Squadron, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Tuesday's memorial service was one of seven held around the world in honor of Newman, family members said. The ceremony ended with family and friends planting a tree in Newman's honor at the Highland Cemetery.

Newman was a member of the 2002 Lone Peak Cheer Team. Tuesday's service was held in the cultural hall of an LDS Church chapel so that friends and family could give break-dancing and cheer-stunt demonstrations, as well as show digital photo montages in his memory.

Family members noted that his military nickname was "Pompom" because of his cheer team experience. They encouraged those gathered to let go of any bitterness they may feel about his death in Iraq.

"I think the thing we can learn from Will is that he did not let anything hold him back," said Shelly Lilijenquist, who was Newman's cheer team coach. "I know Will was here today, and I just wanted him to know how much we all loved him, and his memory and life will live on in each of ours. His quiet, positive energy lifted each one of us.

"I'm so thankful he was willing to serve our country. He was the type of young man that would lay down his life willingly. He would never hesitate to protect someone else."

Friend Keldon Stephens said Newman had made "the ultimate sacrifice not only to protect me but to protect all of us."

Newman entered basic training in Nov. 2003 and married his wife, SoYong, in Aug. 2005, Stephens said. The couple had planned to renew their vows after he returned from Iraq.

Newman worked in a special unit of the military in Texas, which helped protect the president of the United States, and while in Iraq helped to safely remove more than 7,000 pounds of explosives left in traps by insurgents, Stephens said.

Stephens read e-mails he had received from Newman from Iraq in which Newman said he was excited to come home as early as next month and was happy to be able to speak to his wife by phone every other day. Iraqi children greeted him daily hoping for candy from the soldiers and seeing them was an inspiration, he wrote.

Newman also wrote that the Iraqi people had taught him to be grateful for electricity and good shoes, and had taught him what was really necessary in life, and what he could do without, Stephens said.

The last e-mail was dated eight days before his death, Stephens said.

"I will be on my way home soon," Stephens quoted Newman's writing. "I feel good and very much am looking forward to getting home. I've had some awesome opportunities, and I have seen some things that have changed me forever."

Newman died during the afternoon of June 7 while disarming an explosive trap left by insurgents.

"Will gave his life protecting innocent people and the lives of his team members," Stephens said. "He was a true hero. Will, we may never know what God had planned for you, but what we know is that you are up there watching over us."

A senior airman in the Air Force, Newman lived off and on for about 12 years with Jay and Connie Stephens of Highland as their foster son. Funeral services were held in Tennessee.

From the Daily Herald

Related Link:
William N. Newman dies 'wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'