Saturday, July 07, 2007

Shane Stinson laid to rest

FULLERTON – While U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John McMahon presented the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge posthumously to Pfc. Shane Stinson's mother, a childhood friend clutched a drawing of what will become his tribute tattoo.

Stinson, 23, of Fullerton was killed by insurgents June 23 in Baghdad in his third month of Operation Iraqi Freedom. McMahon said Stinson drove land vehicles on more than 200 missions and searched 120 homes in Baghdad.

A tearful John Otis, 28, showed the 200-plus mourners gathered in a Forest Lawn Cypress chapel Friday the picture of a gun topped with an Army helmet and flanked by empty boots. The inscription: "KIA, Shane Stinson, 06-23-07."

"Shane did this for us," Otis told the crowd. "With this tattoo on my arm, he will always be with me."

Paul Estebo, who led the funeral services, encouraged family and friends not to grieve but to instead take any personal link with Stinson's life as a gift.

Estebo asked congregants to allow the totality of Stinson's life to touch their lives – to pass along the love, concern, thoughtfulness, loyalty and patriotism Stinson shared with others.

"The death of a soldier is not only a loss to the family, friends and unit, but the loss to a nation," the general said.

Stinson's mother, Evelyn, sat quietly in the front pew, wearing a dog tag and bracelets inscribed with her son's name. She wept softly as a video of Stinson's life was screened above the flag-draped casket.

"Evelyn was always there for her boys; the kids have been everything to her," said a co-worker of hers, Nora Castellano.

Stinson's girlfriend, Jessica Elbag of La Habra, emotionally said the couple had planned a future "until we grow old together."

Family friend Mark Nunez of Fullerton recalled Stinson's message that he was "going to fight so loved ones are safe at home."

Outside the chapel, the Patriot Guard Riders stood at attention with American flags flanking the walkway. The volunteers, who are mostly veterans, were invited by the family to share their respect and protect mourners from any protesters known to disrupt military funerals.

"Luckily, we haven't had any demonstrations in Orange County, but we have in Los Angeles," Guard Capt. Craig Donor said. "It's our honor to be here."

Perhaps two dozen Riders' motorcycles circled the back driveway, ready to escort the casket to the Awakening Faith memorial lawn.

Inside, Estebo reminded the congregation that Stinson wanted to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves.

"He went to war a shy young man, and he came home a hero," Estebo said.

From the Orange County Register

Related Link:
Shane M. Stinson dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire'