For the second time this week, a Vermont community mourned the death of a local serviceman killed in the line of duty in Iraq.
Chief Warrant Officer Erik Halvorsen was buried in Bennington today with full military honors.
VPR’s Susan Keese reports.
(Keese) Nearly 300 mourners filled Bennington’s Second Congregational Church to pay their respects to the fallen pilot.
Erik Halverson died, along with five comrades, when his Blackhawk Helicopter crashed during a firefight over the city of Karbala on April 2nd.
Family, friends, and comrades gathered before the flag-draped casket, which was attended by an honor guard from the Vermont Army National Guard at Camp Johnson.
Photographers and TV news crews waited outside the church during the service, which could be heard outside.
Many Vermont dignitaries were also in attendence, including Vermont Governor James Douglas. Douglas said he hoped the two Vermont war deaths mourned this week would be the last.
(Douglas) “We’ve lost two Vermonters, which is disproportional to our population…Vermonters have always been prepared to serve and sacrifice, and that’s continuning to this day.”
(Keese) Halvorsen, a 40-year-old career Army officer, was a 1981 graduate of Mount Anthony Union High school. He had served in Korea and in the first Gulf War in 1991.
Pastor Mary H. Lee-Clark noted in her homily that, despite the dangers of war, Halvorsen had offered his skills and his courage to his country over and over. Lee-Clark also read a message from Halvorsen’s mother, Dorothy Halvorsen.
(Lee-Clark) “You lived honestly, fairly vividly with a quiet strength. You were adventuresome but cautious. You enjoyed good times with friends, but family was always important. You were responsible, dutiful to your country, you were everyone’s friend and yet often alone.”
(Keese) Halvorsen’s three sisters also spoke. One sister, Karen Loebe of California, called her brother a peacekeeper, who could defuse arguments with a few soft spoken words.
(Loebe) “I want to tell you how proud of you I am, my little brother…you were the kind of man I hope my two boys will aspire to be like: kind, gentle, considerate of others…”
(Keese) Halvorsen’s nephew Nicholas Richter, summed his uncle up in a few words.
(Richter) “In the past days I’ve heard so many stories about him…but most of all what I heard was how wonderful he was, and what a great friend. If someone asked me to describe him in one word, I would have to say a hero, cause that’s what he was, to me and to so many others.”
(Keese) Traffic came to a stop during the brief procession from the church to the nearby Park Lawn Cemetery. Along the route, Bennington residents bearing flags stood at attention as the procession passed.
(Keese) At the cemetery, Halvorsen was given a 21-gun salute. He was also awarded two medals. He received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for meritorious service and for giving the ultimate sacrifice.
Vermont National guardsmen folded the flag from Halvorsen’s coffin and presented it to Halvorsen’s mother. A second flag was presented to Halvorsen’s father.
As the service ended, a Black Hawk helicopter flew over the cemetery, to honor a fallen comrade.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m, Susan Keese in Bennington.