A soldier comes home

Army escorts body of Mont Alto's Eddie Shaffer

Army escorts body of Mont Alto's Eddie Shaffer

January 03, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

HAGERSTOWN - Zachary Black moved closer to the terminal window Tuesday afternoon when military pallbearers boarded the U.S. Air Force C-130 that brought the body of Sgt. Edward W. "Eddie" Shaffer home.

As the soldiers emerged with the flag-draped casket, Black raised his right arm in salute.

Black watched as the casket was slid into the hearse that would carry the Mont Alto, Pa., soldier who was severely burned when a roadside bomb exploded Nov. 13, 2006, near Ramadi, Iraq.

Black then returned to work at the Budget Rent A Car kiosk, where he had learned just a half-hour before about the arrival of the 23-year-old Purple Heart recipient who he never met.

"I heard a fallen soldier was coming," Black said.

Two weeks from entering basic training himself, Black mentioned the Army's values of duty, honor and courage while looking at the gray hearse.


"It's an honor to serve," Black said.

The 20-year-old Hagerstown man was one of fewer than 25 people, including four of Shaffer's relatives, who watched the C-130 arrive from San Antonio, Texas. Several of those gathered expressed surprise at how few people were at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Marlene Burkholder of State Line, Pa., said she and her neighbor, Jane Scott, wanted to "just pay our respect for him." Burkholder referred to a passage from the Bible that says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

The women clutched small American flags, while peering through the fence.

"We just wanted to be out to greet him," Scott said.

Shaffer died Dec. 27 at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The 2002 Waynesboro Area Senior High School graduate was being treated for critical burns he suffered when a roadside bomb exploded near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Visitation and Shaffer's funeral will be held publicly later this week at Grove-Bowersox Funeral Home in Waynesboro, Pa. The family will receive friends from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday; the funeral begins at 11 a.m. Friday.

Military honors are expected to accompany burial in Parklawns Memorial Gardens in Chambersburg, Pa., immediately following the funeral service.

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