Sunday, August 26, 2007

Justin Penrod laid to rest

URBANA – Urbana and Danville laid a hero to rest Saturday, with a line of dozens of cars and motorcycles following Spc. Justin Penrod's hearse from his funeral to Danville National Cemetery.

Spc. Penrod, 24, who lived in Danville, Rantoul and Mahomet before he was killed in his second tour of duty in Iraq, was remembered as a loving brother, father, son and husband Saturday at Urbana Assembly of God Church.

He died Aug. 11 in Arab Jabour, Iraq, when he followed a sniper into a building and an improvised explosive device went off. Spc. Penrod was awarded the Bronze Star, one of the highest honors a soldier can earn.

He is survived by his wife, Christina, and 8-month-old son, Colin.

Speakers at the funeral recalled Spc. Penrod as a person: generous to others, particularly a disabled brother; wild at times; a disciplinarian, when he served as a drill inspector at Lincoln's Challenge Academy in Rantoul; a devoted husband and father; and a fan of NASCAR and the Chicago Cubs.

Cadets from Lincoln's Challenge had an honor guard at the church. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders also honored the fallen soldier.

Elder Russell Beck read a poem by Christina Penrod in which Spc. Penrod speaks words of comfort to her, including the lines, "God didn't take me from you, he only took me by the hand."

The church, which was packed and had an overflow room with a video hookup, was full of stifled sobs during the reading of the poem.

Pastor Gary Grogan talked about a Bible passage, John 15:13, that says "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," noting that's exactly what Spc. Penrod did.

He told an anecdote about Pulitzer Prize-winning historian William Manchester, who served as a Marine in World War II. Lightly wounded, Manchester went AWOL from his field hospital to join his friends when they were ordered to make an assault in the battle of Okinawa. Manchester was severely wounded in that attack, an act similar to Spc. Penrod's.

He repeated a saying about how soldiers guarantee each of America's freedoms, sometimes with their own blood.

Grogan asked those in the church to give a standing ovation for soldiers and veterans, many of whom were in the pews.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn called Spc. Penrod "an All-American hero" for volunteering to protect America from terrorists.

During the funeral, about two dozen members from the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., held a protest 200 yards away on Windsor Road. The church organizes protests at troops' funerals nationwide because its members believe the military defends a country that accepts homosexuality. Urbana Police Sgt. Bryant Seraphin said there were no incidents, and the protesters left before the funeral ended.

From the News Gazette

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