Funeral held for Sergeant Jesse Strong

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(Host) Hundreds of people filled the Lake Region Union High School Gymnasium in Orleans on Friday to pay their respects to Marine Sargent Jesse Strong. Last week, Strong became the fifteenth soldier with Vermont ties to die in the war in Iraq.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Sound from funeral service)
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be praised. Let’s join our hearts together as one. Let us begin with prayer.”

(Zind) The service for Jesse Strong was handmade by those who knew him. An uncle offered a prayer, a friend read a newly written poem. Members of the Albany, Vermont church where the Marine’s father is pastor played music. Strong’s college roommate played a song written for his friend.

When Jesse Strong left for college his coworkers at Ray’s Market in Irasburg presented him a plaque with the inscription “to the Happiest Man Alive.” Friday, market owner Ray Decelles remembered Strong’s love of pratfalls. Decelles said Strong’s tireless efforts to make people laugh weren’t dampened by the discipline of Marine life.

(Decelles) “His family worried that the Marines would take away his carefree humor and goofiness. But that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.”

(Zind) Strong was also remembered someone whose desire to help people was an outgrowth of his deeply held religious beliefs. He worked with children in his community. He bought a uniform for an older veteran so the two of them could march together in the Memorial Day parade. He served as honorary chaplain of his unit in Iraq.

Strong died January 26 in an ambush northeast of Baghdad.

“We know no greater joy, thank that Jesse gave his life proudly and bravely for his country.”

(Zind) Strong attended Liberty University which was established by well-known Evangelist Jerry Fallwell. Fallwell, who serves as the university’s chancellor spoke at Friday’s service. Fallwell remembered Strong’s infectious enthusiasm and mischievous nature.

(Fallwell) “Being a little bit loose myself, I can appreciate Jesse Strong. I go back to college days and I think, ‘If all these students knew what I did!” And I made the dumb statement in chapel one day that sometimes it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. Jesse heard it. And he was often getting forgiveness.”

(Zind) Family friends said those who visited Jesse Strong’s parents Vicki and Nate to offer comfort, came away themselves comforted. As he concluded his remarks, Fallwell addressed the family seated in front of him.

(Falwell) “I lament your loss. But if we had the power to bring him back, we’d be wrong to exercise it. Because God makes no mistakes.”

(Zind) Jesse Strong was 24.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Orleans.

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