Monday, September 17, 2007

Dane Balcon laid to rest

Under cloudy silver skies, pallbearers carried the flag-draped coffin up the steep stairs of the Air Force Academy Chapel.

Army Pfc. Dane Balcon, who was born on an Arizona Air Force base 19 years ago, was mourned by his military family and hundreds of others Friday at the academy.

Balcon, a 2006 Sand Creek High School graduate, was killed Sept. 5 by a bomb blast in Balad, Iraq, along with another soldier in the 1st Cavalry out of Fort Hood, Texas.

Family members, friends and cadets were among those packing the chapel for the memorial service at the academy, where his mother, Capt. Carla Sizer, is an instructor.

Many wore buttons commemorating Balcon. Some had T-shirts and hooded sweat shirts silk-screened with his Army picture.

Balcon, raised in an Army and Air Force extended family, wanted to carry on the military tradition from an early age.

“He would let nothing or no one deter him from that,” his grandfather, retired Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Thomas Jr. said in a tribute.

“The last thing he said to me was, ‘Granddad, I’ll be all right.’”

Balcon’s mom led the entourage of red-eyed mourners as her son’s remains were taken from the chapel for burial in the afternoon at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

Sharay Martinez, 16, a Falcon High School junior, brought a dozen roses to the service.

“For his mother,” said the teen, who met Balcon when he was her junior ROTC commander at Falcon.

“He was a good leader. He was very strong about what he wanted to do,” she said. “Going to Iraq was something he wanted to do.”

Roy Shumate, a 2007 Sand Creek graduate stationed at Fort Hood, said he got a message from Balcon six days before his death.

“He said he wanted me to get the first flight over there,” Shumate said.

Fond memories of Balcon broke his somber mood.

“He always made laugh,” the uniformed soldier said, his face brightening.

Schumate’s mom, Karen, said Balcon was among the group of teens who’d gather at their home for mock-combat games with plastic pellets.

“They’d shoot holes in my blinds and walls and backyard,” she said.

“I’d find them at the house, up at all hours of night, laughing and giggling. Dane would always say, ‘Hi, Ma’am, How are you?’ Always with respect.”

She echoed the sentiment of others.

“A good kid,” she said. “I’m glad he rubbed off on all these guys.”

From the Colorado Springs Gazette

Related Link:
Dane R. Balcon dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'