Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kamisha Block laid to rest

Jessica Cole tried as hard as she could Thursday to keep the promise she made to her close friend U.S. Army Spc. Kamisha Block.

Cole, 15, said Block used to tell her that "soldiers don't cry" and not to shed tears if anything happened to her while serving in Iraq.

As Cole passed the row of flower arrangements flanking Block's casket at the front of Eastgate United Pentecostal Church's sanctuary for final viewing, it happened.

"I cracked a tear, but I never broke down crying," Cole said quietly while waiting beside her mother's car as the parking lot cleared for the processional. "I'll cry where nobody sees."

On Thursday, more than 600 people - family, friends, classmates and strangers - filled the lower level of the church where Block was a member to pay their final respects.

Block, 20, died Aug. 16 as a result of a non-combat incident in Iraq - 12 days after her birthday, less than three months after going to the war zone and seven years after being baptized by the Rev. George Gau.

"Little did I know that her actions in the years to come would reflect that of Jesus Christ; that our Lord and Savior was willing to lay down his life so that we may have life," Gau told mourners.

A Vidor native and 2005 graduate of Vidor AIM Center High School, Block is the ninth soldier and first female soldier from Southeast Texas to die in Iraq.

In Iraq, she served as a military policewoman with the 89th Military Police Brigade based at Fort Hood.

Her superiors and a fellow soldier described her as "Wonder Woman," a "big sister" and ambitious motivator with a "big Texas smile (that) brightened a room and warmed your heart," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Francis Mahon read from one of the statements.

Mahon presented Block's family with a Bronze Star, a Good Conduct Medal and two ribbons recognizing Block's service in the War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Eastgate Pastor G.R. Edwards told mourners to draw strength and pattern their lives after the hope that Block had and inspired in others.

Block had "escaped death" a few weeks earlier, Edwards said. She was nearby when a July 17 roadside bomb killed U.S. Army Pfc. Brandon Keith Bobb, 20, of Port Arthur, a military policeman in Block's brigade.

Block knew her role was dangerous but felt it had to be done to help all Americans and Iraqis, Edwards said.

"The price of greatness is responsibility," Edwards said. "Kamisha took the responsibility on her to decide she was going to make a difference in people's lives."

The procession left the church and headed south along Lexington Drive. A family lined their front yard in silence, hands over their hearts and American flags waving, as the vehicles passed.

Turning onto Orange Street, Block's hearse passed teachers and staff at Vidor High School, who stood on both sides holding flags and a "Class of 2005" banner - in silence - as the school's electronic marquee flashed a message of support.

Along Main and Alamo streets leading to Del-Rose Cemetery, more Vidorians either pulled over in their vehicles or stood on their front porches as the motorcade passed.

At the cemetery, mourners clustered around the family under a maroon tent and watched as an honor guard presented Jerry and Jane Block with a folded American flag.

Scattered sobs rose from the crowd as shots from the three-volley salute shattered the stillness, "Taps" sounded and the scores of mourners filed out of the cemetery.

Lillie Heidleberg, Cole's mother and former co-worker of Block at Vidor's Waffle House restaurant, said she takes comfort in a natural sign that friends have said has become a symbol of hope among Block's friends since her death - yellow butterflies.

Heidleberg said when she stepped outside Thursday morning, a small yellow butterfly flew up and hovered in her face. No matter how she moved, the butterfly wouldn't go away.

It had to be Block, Heidleberg said.

"She's telling us 'It's OK, I'm free, I'm watching you,' " Heidleberg said, in tears.

From the Beaumont Enterprise

Related Link:
Kamisha J. Block dies 'of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident'