Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jon Hicks laid to rest

Along the lower slope of Atco Cemetery, beneath the shade of a single tree, Marine Lance Cpl. Jon Hicks Jr. was laid to rest Thursday amid the crack of a three-shot salute and the mournful strains of "Amazing Grace."

The burial followed an emotional memorial Mass in which Hicks, a 2005 graduate of Hammonton High School, was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart on behalf of the president. The honor was in recognition of injuries he suffered Sept. 9 in Iraq, leading to his death the next day at the age of 20.

"We are here today to mark the death of a hero," said the Rev. James Maggart, pastor of Assumption Church in Hicks' hometown of Waterford Township. "He went marching into battle for his country, for freedom, for his family, for his loved ones, for the people of that part of the world and for everyone gathered here today. ... There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's family, and that's exactly what Jon did for every one of us."

Randy Snyder, Hicks' Scoutmaster and the father of three of his friends, told mourners that the first thing anyone would notice about Hicks was his smile.

"Sometimes, it was more pronounced," Snyder said, "but it was always there." As an example of Hicks' "strong sense of right and wrong," Snyder told a story about the day his wife had been caught in the seemingly endless traffic at the end of the school day at Hammonton High School. The only driver to stop and finally let her leave? Jon Hicks.

"He didn't know it was (my wife)," Snyder said. "He did the right thing, not because it was someone he knew, but because it was the right thing."
Snyder also spoke directly to Hicks' parents and younger brother.

"Cathy, Jon and Kyle," he said, "You got it right. ... Cathy and Jon, you left no stone unturned to raise a fine young man."

Following the service, Hicks' fellow Marines carried his flag-draped casket down the steps of the church. As the funeral procession began its slow advance toward Atco Cemetery, scores of onlookers lined the streets, many carrying small flags.

Flanking Hicks' grave were the members of several veterans' groups, among them the Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder veterans organizations, who shouldered even larger flags.

Pete Zaleski, a member of Rolling Thunder, gave a simple reason why he had come from his home in Freehold to join the procession.

"All I know," he said, "is that we're here to honor the death of a fellow citizen and Marine."

Seven Marines fired three rounds in Hicks' honor, followed by a lone bugler playing taps and a bagpiper performing his rendition of the Marine Hymn and "Amazing Grace."

"We weep at the death of a good man," Maggert said in his eulogy. "We weep for his unfulfilled future, his plans to be a police officer, a member of a S.W.A.T. team, his plans to be married and pass on his integrity to his own children. We weep for a world so often filled with injustice."

From the Atlantic City Press

Related Link:
Jon Hicks remembered

Related Link:
Jon T. Hicks Jr. dies 'while conducting combat operations'