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A soldier laid to rest

August 17, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Sgt. Bobby Edward Beasley, the man who friends and fellow soldiers said was rarely without a smile on his face and always ready to pull a practical joke on a fellow National Guard member, was laid to rest Monday morning in a ceremony replete with military tradition and honors.

Ten days ago at 3:45 p.m., Army Chaplain Alexander Webster walked up the long gravel driveway to the Beasley home in Inwood, W.Va., to tell Juanita Beasley that her husband had been killed in Afghanistan.

Nothing can be said to eliminate the grief of Beasley's family, but sorrow can be assuaged by celebrating Beasley's life, Webster said during the ceremony Monday.


Webster quoted Mychal Judge, a chaplain with the New York Fire Department, who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Today we bury his body, but not his soul. Today we bury his hands, but not his works. Today we bury his heart, but not his love," Webster quoted Judge as saying at a service for another.

Beasley, 36, of Inwood, W.Va., was killed Aug. 7 in Ghazikel, Afghanistan, when his Humvee hit an improvised explosive device. Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry, 39, of Winchester, Va., also was killed.

Both men were with the Virginia Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment based in Winchester.

At the graveside under sunny skies, an officer with the Virginia Army National Guard saluted Beasley's casket as shots fired during a 21-gun salute reverberated through the quiet crowd.

A trumpeter played taps afterward, his solemn notes haunting many in the crowd who had begun to cry.

Six soldiers then lifted the American flag off Beasley's casket, slowly folded it into a triangle and handed it to his wife.

Staff Sgt. Marie Diaz, who accompanied Beasley's body home from the morgue at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., stood by Juanita Beasley's side, a box of tissues tucked under her arm.

Seating for 300 people was available at Rosedale Funeral Home. With every seat taken, dozens of people stood in the main hallway and along the walls of adjacent rooms.

Beasley was buried outside of the funeral home, under a large pine tree in the cemetery's military monument section.

Commander Robert Simpson said during the funeral that soldiers already had gathered to pay tribute to their fallen brother. Simpson read aloud some of their comments.

Paying tribute

One noted that Beasley was always positive; that all it took to make him happy was coffee and a cigarette. "Just his presence could lift your spirits," the soldier said.

Another said Beasley's death came during an effort to allow those in Afghanistan to lead free lives. "We must live lives worthy of the sacrifices of Sgt. Beasley and Sgt. Cherry," that soldier added, according to Simpson.

Until he retired two years ago, Sgt. Hampton Thomas was Beasley's platoon sergeant.

He said Beasley initially was "just another pair of boots on the ground," but eventually became a close friend.

Beasley liked humor and practical jokes, especially those that came at someone else's expense. Thomas said on one drill weekend Beasley dropped a few jelly beans into his hand.

Chewing, everything was fine at first until Thomas bit into the jalapeno-flavored ones. He determinedly ate them all.

Occasionally, though, Beasley seemed moody, and Thomas said he sometimes had to back off if Beasley was not in his normal high spirits.

That all changed after April 15, 2000, when Beasley married Juanita.

"I think Bobby finally found somebody that he could attach to and become a part of and become one with," Thomas said. "I know he loved her dearly and she loved him with all her heart."

Buddies first

Just before heading overseas three weeks before his death, Beasley warned that he was going to allow soldiers with children to call home first and also head home before him at Christmas, Thomas said.

He said he thinks Beasley and Cherry are still overseas, watching out for their buddies in Afghanistan.

"They've got their back and they're pulling security for them right now," he said.

Beasley was posthumously promoted to sergeant. Simpson, who said Beasley was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge, said Americans can sleep more safely at night because men like Beasley are ready to answer the call of duty.

After the service, as most people walked back to their cars, Ray Lind lingered near the casket. Beasley's cousin, Lind said he was proud of the military funeral.

Beasley was one of the few family members to join the military, Lind said. Beasley served in the U.S. Navy during Desert Storm.

Lind recalled that after Beasley moved from North Carolina to Winchester, Lind did not hear about it right away. What he did hear were stories from his friends in high school, who told him they had made friends with an outgoing young man who claimed to be Lind's cousin.

After hearing from three or four such people, Lind tracked down his cousin and realized he had, in fact, just moved to the area.

"He just completely bonded everybody together," Lind said. "He had no hate. It was not in his vocabulary at all."

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