Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lee Adair laid to rest

"Patriotism should be in our land
It starts off with the lifting of one's hand
Justice should be in all our courts
Fairness should be for people of all sorts."
-- Poem written James Lee Adair in the sixth grade

CARTHAGE — Panola County residents lined the highway Monday in sweltering summer heat to pay tribute to one of their own — an East Texas soldier who as a sixth-grader in 1993 studied patriotism, and as a man paid the ultimate cost for his country.

It starts with the lifting of one's hand, James Lee Adair wrote for the school assignment.

Fourteen years later, hands were lifted in somber fashion — some tenderly placed on hearts, some in salute, others wiping away tears — but all raised in honor while a funeral procession for the soldier passed.

Adair was buried Monday with full military honors. He died June 29 in Iraq from wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 28th Infantry Regiment in Fort Riley, Kan.

"How do you say thank you to Lee Adair and say goodbye at the same time," said the Rev. Freddy Mason of Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Carthage, while delivering the eulogy.

Adair attended Carthage schools. There, in Brenda Giles' sixth-grade class, he studied the ABC's of patriotism and was assigned the letter, "J" for justice, Mason said while reading a long ago page from Adair's schoolwork. Mason said conducting funerals is not new to him; however, conducting a funeral for a 26-year-old soldier was new — especially one that left behind a young wife who is expecting her first child in September.

"I want you to remember, Lee was one of us," Mason said. "He was a hometown boy who grew up here. He was special for what he did, and for who he was."

Mason read a letter written by Adair to his wife Chelsea's parents, Eddie and Andrea Nation, of DeBerry.

"I want to say a special thank you for raising the most beautiful, smart and perfect wife. I'm proud for her to be my wife and the mother of my child. She completes me and makes me a better person," Adair wrote from Iraq while fighting in Operation Freedom.

After the eulogy, Adair's family was presented medals and commendations during a special ceremony.

Posthumously, he obtained the rank of specialist (E-4) and was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Army Good Conduct Medal.

Adair was the only active duty member of the American Legion Post No. 353 in Carthage. Adair was born Nov. 16, 1980, in Cameron County.

He lived most of his life in Carthage, played football and was a Baptist.

Adair's former Scoutmaster, Robert White of Gary, said he remembered a happy young man who was well liked.

"He was just a happy guy who loved to have fun," White said. "If something was going on, he was in the middle of it. If he did not start it, he quickly got in on it. He just had a good spirit."

White said the Boy Scouts of America Troop 268 was organized in 1992. Since then, 11 members have enlisted in the military.

"They range from private to second lieutenant, but Lee is the only one we have lost," White said.

During the procession to Walnut Springs Cemetery, about 38 Patriot Guard Riders from Texas and Louisiana rode in accompaniment while friends and family gathered along the highway for about a seven-mile stretch to pay their respects.

"It was just momentous to see. Lee was a hometown boy, and the people from his hometown came out to pay their respect in a way we could not have imagined," said Adair's father-in-law, Eddie Nation.

Patriot Guard Riders came from Texarkana, Bossier City and East Texas, said Robert Young, senior ride captain with the Northeast Texas Patriot Guard Riders.

"These guys are taking vacation, sick days; some are just walking off their jobs to pay respect and to honor this soldier. We respect that a young man, or a young woman, will put their life on the line," Young said.

Though most of the riders did not know Adair, they knew his name and what he stood for, Young said.

"These riders will carry his name and his sacrifice with them for the rest of their lives," Young said.

"A lot of them will pass his name down to their children, so they too will know his name and know what he did for his country."

From the News Journal

Related Link:
Lee (James L.) Adair dies 'of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device'