(Host) Sergeant Jamie Gray was the third member of the Vermont National Guard to die in the war in Iraq. At his funeral service on Monday in the Vermont hills, he was remembered as a giving person.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Sound of bagpipes.)
(Zind) The war in Iraq came to a newly mown hay field on a Vermont hilltop Monday. It’s a hill Jamie Gray’s family has been farming for seven generations.
Along the dirt road that bears Gray’s grandfather’s name and leads to the family’s white farmhouse, there were small flags fixed to neighbors’ mailboxes.
(Chaplain) “We now commit Jamie’s body to its resting place today. Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust…”
(Zind) Several hundred people, including the governor and Vermont’s two U.S. senators, came to pay tribute to Gray and honor his service in the Vermont Army National Guard.
Judith Shailor had known Gray since childhood and remembered him as someone who lived an idyllic life in Vermont, but joined the Guard because he wanted to make a difference.
(Shailor) “He was surrounded by beauty, nature, love and peace and that is what led him to want to give back. Jamie left us while on a humanitarian mission with his unit, delivering food and supplies to the people of Iraq. He was doing what he believed in. He was serving, he was giving. Bringing hope to a people that he never really knew.”
(Zind) Sergeant John Adams served in the Guard’s 186th maintenance detachment with Gray. Adams said as a mechanic Gray was always willing to pitch help others and mentor younger members.
(Adams) “I can’t even begin to tell you how many vehicles he’s repaired for other members of the National Guard and their families. He was a positive role model for anyone he came in contact with.”
(Zind) As the service came to a close, with the hazy mountains as a backdrop, a group of Civil War re-enactors fired a cannon that reverberated through the hills.
(Sound of cannon fire.)
(Zind) Adjutant General Martha Rainville presented the flag from the Gray’s coffin to his family. Gray is survived by his father, stepmother and sister.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.