Wednesday, October 03, 2007

John Mele laid to rest

Army Sgt. John Mele served in the military like his grandfather and namesake.

Although separated by half a century on the battlefield, they nonetheless remained connected in life through family, name and service to their country. Now, they will remain tied together in memory, buried nine gravesites apart at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mele, 25, of Bunnell, Fla., died Sept. 14 in Arab Jabour, Iraq, after a makeshift bomb detonated near his unit during combat operations, the Defense Department said. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga.

"He was a really great soldier, and the absolute greatest husband and father," his wife, Jennifer, told the Glennville Sentinel in Georgia. "He loved what he did, and he died doing what he loved best -- being a soldier."

Jennifer Mele, 27, told the Sentinel that her husband's squad was preparing to clear a house in Arab Jabour, and he warned others to stay back as he approached the building. A bomb detonated, and Mele was killed.

More than 110 mourners gathered at Arlington Cemetery yesterday to pay their respects. Maj. David Baum, an Army chaplain, described Mele as a "great husband" and "wonderful dad," and spoke of "his courage and willingness to sacrifice" for his country. Mele was the 372nd military person killed in Iraq to be buried at Arlington.

"Fight to keep his memory alive," Baum urged mourners.

After the service, flags were presented to Mele's widow and his parents, Michael Mele and Kim Gilzow.

Mele was not buried in Section 60, as so many of the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been. Instead, he was buried in Section 12, surrounded by veterans of World War I and World War II, many of whom died decades before Mele was born. He was buried there to be close to his grandfather, who served in World War II and the Korean War, and died in May 2004, just short of his 80th birthday. He shares the gravesite with his daughter, Mary, who died in 1953, a day after being born.

The younger Mele spent part of his early years in Henderson, Tex., and moved to Union City, Tenn., after his father was offered a job there. Mele lived in Glennville, Ga., with his wife and their daughter, Clarissa, during some of the time he served at Fort Stewart.

Mele left for Iraq in May for the third deployment of his career. He began his military service with the Tennessee Army National Guard, having joined at 17 to begin training during his senior year in high school.

His father and stepmother, Michael and Linda Mele, still live in Union City. He also is survived by two brothers, Michael and Nick, and two half-siblings, Blake Northcutt and Jessie Breanne Northcutt.

Blake Northcutt, 20, is in the military and stationed in Louisiana, Mele's wife told the Sentinel. "John was the person who inspired him to join the service," she said.

From the Washington Post

Related Link:
John Mele has services ahead of burial at Arlington

Related Link:
John Mele dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations'