Canton Repository

December 13, 2006

Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner buried at Arlington

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner, lauded for his dedication to America, was laid to rest amid the sounds of Marine riflemen firing volleys and a bugler playing "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.

Warner was praised as a man who loved God, his family and country during the interment attended by about 30 family members and friends, including his parents, Scott and Melissa Warner, and his brothers, Chandler, 14, and Ashton, 7.

The 19-year-old McKinley High School graduate was killed in Iraq on Nov. 22.

A gunner on an armored Humvee conducting operations against insurgents in perilous Al Anbar province, he was killed along with two other Marines when a roadside bomb blew up the vehicle.

Except for the noise of an occasional aircraft flying overhead, the cemetery seemed unusually quiet and still during the 20-minute ceremony.

The service began soon after Warner's hearse wound up a hill toward the grave site, followed by several vehicles carrying mourners and a group of motorcycles ridden by Vietnam veterans from the Washington, D.C., area.

Marine pallbearers carried his casket to the grave site as relatives and friends walked behind.

Navy Chaplain Ronald Nordan told the mourners they had the comfort of knowing that Warner's personal relationship with Jesus Christ strengthened him in his service to the country and, ultimately, the sacrifice of his life.

The family's pastor, the Rev. Terry Kirschman of Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Canton, offered a graveside prayer. He said Christ's death and resurrection have "provided life for us."

Referring to Warner, he said, "Though we say goodbye today, we expect to say hello again."

Warner's father read a poem, "Eulogy of the Common Soldier," written by Army 1st Lt. Aaron Seesan, a Stark County man who was killed in Iraq last year.

Told from the point of view of a soldier who has been killed, the poem memorializes the plot where he has fallen as "a little piece of America, a patch for the free man, which no oppressor can take."

With pallbearers still holding the American flag above the casket, Marine riflemen fired three volleys to repeated orders of "ready, aim, fire."

As a Marine bugler followed with "Taps," the sun emerged from behind hazy clouds to shine a little brighter on the gathering.

When the flag was folded, Marine Col. Gregory Boyle knelt before Warner's mother to present it to her.

Giving her a hug and kiss, he spoke to her and other members of the family. Later, Boyle presented Warner's Purple Heart to his two younger brothers.

Warner went to Iraq about three months ago to serve a six-month tour of duty.

Scott Warner described the family as emotionally drained and struggling with mixed feelings of pride, honor and grief.

"You're so proud but you're grieving so strongly at the same time," he said.

Warner added that he has been corresponding with some of his son's fellow Marines since his death. As a result, he said, "My sense of appreciation for him and his bravery and courage has just grown."

The family was "totally impressed" with the burial ceremony, he added. The "compassion from the Marine leaders that came to honor our son today meant a lot to us."

Heath Warner's tombstone includes designations for Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as his Purple Heart. The family had two more lines added. They read: "A Simple Person. He Gave So Much."