Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Robbie Varga has final services ahead of cremation

MONROE CITY, Mo. — The sun was setting as the bittersweet lament of a bugler playing "Taps" rang out Monday, marking the final goodbyes to Army Spec. Robert Daniel Varga.

Funeral services for 24-year-old Varga were in Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Varga's wife, Ellie, his parents, Ceil and Frank Varga, sisters and other family welcomed consoling hugs and soothing words from friends and community members.

Varga, a member of the 759th Military Police Battalion, 984th Military Police Company, died July 15 from injuries received in a noncombat-related incident in Baghdad. The incident is being investigated. It was Varga's second tour of duty in Iraq.

Poignant moments were prevalent during the three-hour visitation and hour-long funeral service.

A vignette of photos of Varga from infancy to adulthood played across a screen at the front of the church, where the flag-draped casket was placed. The Varga family met a steady stream of people with weary, but grateful, resolve.

Varga's sister Carey Noland soothed her sister-in-law Ellie, stroking her hair. Frank Varga watched the photos in quiet grief while holding family members close.

One of the most painful moments came when Ellie Varga rose to speak during the service. Married only last September, she met her husband's family for the first time as they prepared for the funeral.

Swallowing hard to fight back tears, she said her husband offered a "solid foundation" on which a marriage of "trust and love" was built.

"I will always cherish our time together ... a husband, a best friend, a memory. My love for you will live on forever. One day we'll meet again for eternity," she said.

Varga's military friends, who came from Army bases in Kentucky and Colorado, sat rigid and stoic and surreptitiously wiped their eyes.

Others took turns speaking of the fun-loving Varga. Sister Pamela Poelker called her brother the "most wonderful person ever."

"He meant the world to us. We loved him. We need him. We still do. I just want to make sure everyone knows," she said.

The Rev. Don Antweiler of Holy Rosary parish and the Rev. Steve Goughnour of Monroe City Christian Church presided over the service. They both reassured the family that Varga's death does not mean the end. Goughnour provided a homily in which he reminded those present of Varga's joy of life and the comfort memories of his love of laughter and generous spirit will bring.

"As you go through life and remember Robert, sometimes you'll laugh and sometimes you'll cry. And both will be all right," he said. "Robert would say: 'Live for me. Do the things I loved to do ... live and love and laugh for me.' "

As the prayers fell silent, the sharp report of guns rang out three times. When the lone bugler began playing "Taps," all soldiers in the church, past and present, stood at rigid attention.

A long silence was broken by muffled sound of marching feet as the funeral detail from Fort Leonard Wood entered the church. They approached the casket, lining up three on either side, while Sgt. 1st Class Galo Bueno stood at one end and Maj. Gen. William McCoy, commander of Fort Leonard Wood, stood at the other.

Then, at a nod from Bueno, the six white-gloved soldiers lifted the flag from the casket, and in teams of two began to fold it, creasing sharp edges to make the traditional triangled treasure for the family.

Once done, Bueno accepted the flag and turned to deliver it to McCoy. The general took the flag and a second one. As he offered condolences and gratitude, he gave the first flag to Varga's wife and the second to his parents.

Then, the funeral detail turned the casket and carefully took their fellow soldier from the church.

Following Varga's wishes, his body will be cremated.

From the Herald-Whig

Related Link:
Robbie Varga remembered

Related Link:
Robert D. Varga dies 'of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident'