Monday, December 29, 2008
Twelve-Year-Old Boy Buried With Military Honors
This inspiring story comes from Military.com and Knight Ridder:
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Boy, 12, Given Military Burial
December 23, 2008
MILLERSPORT, Ohio -- The Soldiers flanked the casket, solemn and precise, and folded the American flag with a yank-and-flip motion. On one knee, a sergeant presented the flag to a grieving mother.
Around them, mourners with red eyes and heaving shoulders testified, silently, to the mark Dennis Channel Jr. left on each of them.
Seven Soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard raised their rifles and fired three rounds. A lone bugler sounded taps, a haunting call that wafted over the nearby graves of veterans.
Dennis, known to all as "Bubba," was buried Monday with full military honors.
He was 12 years old.
The Millersport boy was too young to be a Soldier or a veteran, for whom such an honor is generally reserved.
Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Herzog had never led an honor guard at a funeral for anyone out of uniform, except a member of Congress, in 10 years on the job. But Dennis deserved it, the Guard decided.
He was his own kind of warrior. He waged a battle with brain cancer, diagnosed when he was just 5 years old. He was a brave Soldier, all agreed, one who changed the world for the better.
Dennis died, holding his parents' hands, shortly after 3 a.m. Friday, Dec. 19.
Those at his funeral -- relatives, teachers, classmates -- spoke about the way the little boy with the big brown eyes changed them in the short time he had.
In one way, he was an ordinary boy who loved dinosaurs and BMX, and his mom and dad most of all.
But friends and family members also remembered the extraordinary spirit and peace that Dennis possessed, always positive, polite and faithful despite his suffering.
He never complained, even though he had to leave school in second grade and endure several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, said his father, Dennis.
He talked to anyone who would listen about God's goodness, said Paula Clark, his former teacher.
"His No. 1 concern was how everybody else was," she said. "I've taught school for 26 years, and never have I encountered anybody who had a soul like he had."
He loved his country and developed a passion for the military from a young age, thanks to his father, a veteran, and relatives of his mother, Shawna.
It was his dream to be an Army chaplain.
"He said he used to talk to God," said his father, who wore a dog tag adorned with a photo of his son. "And God wanted him to help people."
An Army battalion based in Fort Campbell, Ky., adopted Dennis, who visited the Soldiers. They gave him a uniform and beret.
He made fast friends with Soldiers based in central Ohio, too. He earned honorary status as a member of the U.S. Army and as a chaplain for the Ohio National Guard.
His dreams didn't go unfulfilled, said the Rev. Steve Bush, who officiated at Dennis' funeral at Lighthouse Memorial Church in Millersport.
"Look at this room. He filled it," Bush said during the service, before an estimated crowd of more than 400. "Most chaplains, most pastors I know, would long for the influence Dennis had over those he loved, and even those he didn't."
Dennis was buried in his uniform and beret, in a casket painted with tanks and helicopters. A pair of combat boots sat nearby. Classmates at Millersport Elementary School signed a picture of an American flag, which sat inside the casket.
Dennis had a profound effect on his peers, Clark said. He taught them how to be strong, and they learned compassion by organizing fundraisers for him.
"That class will be extra-special because of that," Clark said. "They know what it is to help people."
Dennis inspired grown-ups, too. A group of veterans from Buckeye Lake saluted his casket at his gravesite.
Col. Andrew Aquino, a military chaplain, presented the boy's parents with a medal for meritorious service from the state of Ohio.
"God has really given us a special blessing," he said, "in knowing Bubba."
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We send our condolences to the family of this young American patriot.
Charles M. Grist