Local Marine killed in Afghanistan is laid to rest at Arlington

January 18, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • A U.S. Marine honor guard salutes a casket carrying the body of Lance Cpl. Maung P. "Samuel" Htaik from Stauffer Funeral Home near Frederick, Md., to Arlington National Cemetery.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

ARLINGTON, Va. — Shortly after 9 a.m., a small group of mourners made its way across the frozen ground of Arlington National Cemetery, bells chiming from a distant clock tower.

Some clung to the arms of those next to them, others focused on the silver casket draped with the American flag.

Almost as a single unit, they made their way through a sea of starched uniforms and salutes.

Amid a military tradition honed by the agony of war, family and friends paid their final respects to a 20-year-old Washington County man they affectionately called "Samuel."

The names of those buried in Arlington read like an American history book — presidents, generals and statesmen.

On Tuesday morning, Lance Cpl. Maung P. Htaik took his place beside them.

Htaik, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, died Jan. 1 during combat operations in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

The family chose Arlington National Cemetery as his final resting place, his brother Dan Yar said, "because he deserves it."

"He would be proud," Yar added.

The son of Hla Shwe and Flory Shwe, Htaik was an infantryman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Htaik's family left Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in 1998 and moved to Singapore. They came to the United States in 2002.

Htaik graduated from Smithsburg High School in 2008.

His pastor, Alan Greijack of Gateway Ministries in Williamsport, told those gathered at the grave site that "not only was Samuel a brave and courageous Marine, he was a mighty soldier in the army of God."

"Today, Samuel is in heaven," he said. "We know there is a resurrection. This is not the end. On Jan. 1, it was a beginning for Samuel."

The trip to Arlington began shortly after 5:30 a.m. at Stauffer Funeral Home in Frederick County, Md., when police escorted Htaik, as well as a chartered bus of family and friends along a snow- and ice-covered Interstate 270.

Many people traveled some distance to attend the ceremony, said family friend Peppy Smith of Hagerstown.

"The Burmese community is like a large family," he said. "They are very close-knit."

Smith said he knew Htaik for about five years and described him as "a quiet, peaceable young man."

"But he also liked challenges," Smith said.

Smith, a member of the Air National Guard, said he often talked with Htaik about military service.

"When he graduated from high school, he knew he wanted to go into the military," Smith said. "He liked the physical aspects, the challenges of the Marines."

Smith said he will remember Htaik as "not only a friend, but a person who extended a helping hand to other people. He truly loved his fellow man."

Leaving the Arlington ceremony, Htaik's father, Hla Shwe, broke into a spontaneous song.

"In the name of Jesus, we are the victory," he sang. "Samuel is the victory. The U.S. Marines is the victory. The United States of America is the victory."

Smith said he wasn't surprised by the father's joyous moment.

"His son is gone, but he was expressing the joy of knowing Samuel is in a better place," Smith said.

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