Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fallen Marine Returns Home

The part of Central Texas where I live is composed of many small towns. Most of them still embrace traditional Texan and American values, including self-reliance, helping others, love of country, and in general doing the right thing. Those values are embedded in the people who live here, and the children who grow up here.

That point was driven home yet again when the nearby community of New Braunfels laid one of their own to rest.

New Braunfels salutes fallen Marine
Jake Hixson was to be Sgt. Thomas Spitzer's best man at his wedding, but instead gave his eulogy Monday at St. Paul Lutheran Church before a crowd that spilled into a lobby, while Patriot Guard riders stood outside on a hot afternoon.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders line the entrance to St. Paul Lutheran Church before the funeral for Marine Sgt. Thomas Spitzer in New Braunfels on Monday, July 7, 2014.
The service was followed by a motorcade along Interstate 35 that saw people waiting at an overpass to salute Spitzer and his burial at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

Jean Spitzer (center), the mother of Marine Sgt. Thomas Spitzer, watches as her younger son, Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Spitzer, is presented with a flag. The fallen Marine's fiancée, Casey Neef (left) and his father, John Spitzer, flank them.

Take another look at the picture above. Look at the expression on the face of Sgt. Spitzer's brother, and on his mother as she stares at her younger son with a mixture of what I can only guess is love, pride, sadness, and fear of losing him also. I can't begin to imagine her thoughts.
Friends recalled Spitzer as a young man who hewed to an honor code that prompted him to volunteer for a second tour of Afghanistan's most contested province, Helmand, where more coalition troops — 951 — have died than in any other. They searched for an upside to the end of a promising life and found it in the way he lived.

“We are left here today to honor a young man who in his 23 years ... lived life to the fullest,” said the Rev. Don Ofsdahl. “He was more interested in the quality of life than in the quantity of years.”

In 2009, Spitzer was just out of Canyon High School in New Braunfels and joined the Marines with a fellow graduate, John Felix Farias. They went through boot camp and infantry school together.

Farias, an Eagle Scout and lance corporal, also was killed in action in Helmand, in 2011.

Spitzer, who wore a bracelet with Farias' name on it and saluted him in his Facebook postings, joined him and 65 other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who now rest at Fort Sam.
Sgt. Spitzer graduated from New Braunfels Canyon High School. I have a grandson who goes there now.

Sgt. Spitzer worked at a couple of local establishments - Rockin' R River Rides, which organizes float trips down the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers (I've done both) and Montana Mike's, a steakhouse (I've eaten there).
It was at the restaurant where Spitzer met his fiancée, Casey Neef, who was his trainer. They were to be married April 18, 2015.
“She trained him right,” Ofsdahl said, drawing a few chuckles.

Wearing the Marine Corps' famed globe and anchor was a turning point. In some ways, Spitzer was the same guy everyone had known for his big smile and helping others, but he was different.

“When he joined the Marines, you could tell there was never a doubt about serving his country,” Hixson said.

An unidentified platoon commander described Spitzer as a leader, writing his parents, “The calmness he brought to a fight eased the stress of those around him, enabling them to fight more efficiently. He also always acted with honor. He did the right things for the right reasons.”

Spitzer's first deployment to Helmand was in 2012. Back home, he re-enlisted and joined a Marine sniper platoon before returning to Afghanistan this past March. He was promoted to sergeant the next month.

Spitzer, who volunteered to man an M240B machine gun on his final mission, was hit by small-arms fire.

“Thomas always put others before himself,” said Matthew Huffman, who delivered the second eulogy. “No only was he my point man in Afghanistan, he was my point man in life.”
At times like these, when our country is beset by trials and tribulations, it is heartening to know that we can still produce exceptional young men like Thomas Spitzer, John Farias, and so many more.

I just hope and pray that their sacrifices will not be in vain.

One more picture - in the one below, Jean Spitzer, Sgt. Thomas Spitzer's mother, talks with Marine Gunnery Sgt. Guillermo Tejada after the service. Gunnery Sgt. Tejada was injured in Afghanistan and lives across from the family of John Farias, Sgt. Spitzer's close friend who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

How many communities can boast of four young men who all stepped forward to serve their country in time of need? And what are the odds of three of them becoming casualties - two KIA, 1 WIA?

God Bless the young men who went off to war, the families and friends who raised and supported them, and the United States of America.


jeff said...

Tim - God bless the all and God bless Texas. Seems to be a trend of exceptional young men coming out of your state.

CenTexTim said...

Jeff - I think it's because we are far removed from the northeast/left coast influences...