Monday, September 17, 2007

Christopher Poole laid to rest

Before Christopher Poole shipped off to Iraq, he stopped bythe guidance counselor's office at Mount Dora High School to say goodbye.

The young, blue-eyed Marine who liked to wear his uniform to school waspreparing for war.

"I'll see you when I get home," he told counselor Judy Nutter.

Friday was not the homecoming the corporal's family and friends hadimagined. About 150 mourners paid their respects to Poole, who died Sept. 6in Iraq's Al Anbar province after just five months overseas. He was killedwith three other Marines in an explosion when a suicide bomber drove into asecurity checkpoint.

Poole's large family filled the front pews of Purcell Funeral Home inBushnell, which was adorned with red and white carnations and photographs ofthe 22-year-old Marine.

In a picture to the right of the coffin, Poole stared into the camera witha fearless expression, clad in his dress blues and sitting in front of anAmerican flag. To the left was a picture of Poole as a smiling jokester,shirtless, with his tattoos showing and wearing a cowboy hat.

At the service, family, friends, teachers and clergy read poems and toldstories of the outgoing and fun-loving Southern boy, who wanted to be a Marinesince childhood.

"He was a son, brother and our friend," said Poole's brother, Jeff, 20. "Icould say a lot of things about him -- about how he used to run bare foot downdirt roads and wear his boots without socks. After it was all said and done, Ialways looked up to him. When he went into ROTC, I was right behind him."

Nutter, the counselor, recalled the first time she met Poole at the highschool's welcome bowling event.

"Here he comes, this kid from Georgia in this truck," Nutter said with alaugh.

Poole was born July 4, 1985, in Eustis and lived in Albany, Ga., for 10years near a Marine base. In high school, he played soccer and ran track --when he wasn't boating, at the beach or playing video games.

"He was, 'Give me a pair of cutoffs and raggedy T-shirt, and I'm good togo,' " said his stepfather, Robert Hunsicker, 57.

His lifelong dream of going to war changed when he reached the volatileregions of Iraq, Hunsicker said. Poole called home and told his mother aboutthe death of his friend by a homemade bomb and how Iraqis would spit on himand call him an infidel. The more time passed, the more disillusioned hebecame.

"They think they're going for a purpose, and things change," Hunsicker saidin an interview. "They need to bring our kids home. I feel for anybody at thispoint who has a child there."

At the service, the Marine's mother, Donna Hunsicker, wept heavilybeside her husband, five brothers and two sisters, tears trickling down hercheeks onto her black dress. A country music song played about a soldier'slast letter home, drawing sobs from Poole's fiancee, 19-year-old AndreaGarcia, and his friends.

Outside the chapel, a band of Patriot Guard Riders lined the sidewalksholding American flags. The group of motorcyclists from across Florida standsguard at funerals of fallen military men and women to honor their lives and toshield the funeral procession from war protesters.

As the procession wound down Sumter County roads to the FloridaNational Cemetery, a couple stood at the end of the driveway, hand overhearts. Local police and firefighters stood with somber expressions, holdingtheir hats.

Before the burial, Lt. Col. Charles McLean presented Poole's mother with aPurple Heart and words of thanks for her son's sacrifice. Eight Marinessurrounded his flag-draped coffin and slowly raised their right hands in afinal salute to the slain serviceman as the sound of taps rang out through thecemetery.

An honor guard of Marines tightly folded the flag and placed it in hismother's hands. She clutched it to her chest.

Mourners recall the Mount Dora High graduate's outgoing, free-spiritednature.

From the Orlando Sentinel

Related Link:
Christopher L. Poole Jr. dies 'while conducting combat operations'