Sunday, August 26, 2007

Daniel Scates laid to rest

Friends and family of Staff Sgt. William "Daniel" Scates fell back on their faith Friday during a church service at which they shared memories of the soldier who was killed in Iraq earlier this month by an improvised bomb.

During the funeral at St. Michael's Chapel on Fort Bliss, Christopher Rowe said nothing about Scates was small. "He's always been over 6 feet tall to me and everyone else around him," said Rowe, who traveled from Oklahoma to say goodbye to his close friend. Rowe, a former Marine, said he had dreaded the possibility of Scates' death since the soldier deployed to Iraq.

Scates was killed on his third tour there and had previously served a tour of duty in Bosnia. Although he was serving with a unit from Fort Stewart, Ga., Scates had previously been with a military police unit at Fort Bliss.

He met his wife-to-be, Raquel Vega Scates, in El Paso, and she plans to move back to El Paso with the couple's two daughters to be near her family.

Scates always seemed wise beyond his years, Rowe said -- "it was as if he was 14 going on 40" -- and he stood up for those who couldn't protect themselves. The soldier took that sentiment to another level when he went to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

"He said the best way to keep something like that from happening again was to take the fight to the enemy," Rowe said.
On his second tour to Iraq, Scates worried about whether he would be a capable leader, Rowe said.

"Dan took the responsibility of leadership very seriously," Rowe said. "Dan would never ask his troops to do something he wasn't willing to do."

Courtney Champagne, Scates' sister, shared memories of the practical joker side of her brother, told him he had completed his mission and added, "now you can rest."

"You were a friend to all those around you and a hero, whether they knew you or not," Champagne said. "The family you built to call your own has been as strong as you were. You have brought out the strength in each one of us."

During the service, Scates' 8-month-old daughter Kendra Renee gurgled happily, reaching for the wooden rail in front of her. Jade Alexis, 9, sat quietly next to her mother, who was only 2 feet from her husband's linen-draped casket.

After the funeral, Scates was buried with full military honors at Fort Bliss National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart by Fort Bliss commander Maj. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, who also attended the funeral.

On bended knee, Lennox presented U.S. flags to the soldier's mother and wife, each time coming to attention after a brief conversation and making a slow-motion salute according to Army custom.

In part the Bronze Star citation read: "His sincere desire to bring peace and stability to a foreign nation is an example of what all American soldiers strive to achieve."

Scates, who was born in Oklahoma, was concerned that he wouldn't make it home from his third tour, and told his wife before he deployed that he wanted to be buried at the Fort Bliss cemetery.

During the ceremony -- outdoors under cloudy skies -- a slight breeze kept a 30-foot by 60-foot U.S. flag hanging from a fire- truck ladder unfurled.

From the El Paso Times

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