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County again bids farewell to a soldier

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By The Staff

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The Patriot Guard revs up to escort Charles Messer to Chester Memorial Gardens.

A detail from Fort Jackson honors Messer with a three round volley, Taps, and a flag presentation.

By Stephen Guilfoyle editor@onlinechester.com

For the second time this year, Chester County was the scene of a military funeral.

Spc. Charles Messer of Fort Lawn was laid to rest with full military honors at Chester Memorial Garden on a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon.

Some of his comrades who served with him in Iraq came to the funeral. Others who were in his same unit where he was rehabilitating the arm he injured in an IED explosion while he was on patrol came as well.

One soldier on the detail sent from Fort Jackson for the funeral had also served on the detail that buried Pfc. D. Logan Tinsley Jan. 6, 2007. He had the same job both times, command of the six soldier-team that folded the flag that draped the coffins of the two soldiers. The flags were presented to the family, "with the thanks of a grateful nation."

Capt. Clint "Windy" Windham, a Florence native who was commander of the rehab unit where Messer was trying to rebuild his injured arm said Messer was one of the top two soldiers in his command.

"Top notch," he said.

He and an aide gave the family the Army's commendation medal, which reflects his service in the rehab unit. A Purple Heart, as well as a second promotion, to corporal, are still wending their way through the necessary paperwork, but Windham said they are on their way.

Sgt. Hugo Orosco served with Messer in Iraq. Messer was called a "wild man" by some of his comrades, but he explained that meant he was gung-ho for the mission, whatever it was for the day."

Messer's attitude helped Orosco with his own motivation.

Messer was "outstanding," said Staff Sgt. Roman Garcia, who served on the rehab unit.

Garcia heard 30 minutes after the accident that Messer had been killed. He knew Messer was excited about coming home to Fort Lawn for the holidays.

Some of his comrades from Iraq did not want to discuss what they did specifically over in Mosul, Iraq.

"Let's just say we rounded up a lot of bad guys," one said.

Orosco was in the other Humvee the night Messer's was hit by an improvised explosive device, injuring his arm.

His vehicle had passed the spot of the IED without incident, he said.

"Motivated," he said, describing Messer. "Always ready to go on the next mission, whatever it was."

Both the Rev. Curtis Marshall and the Rev. Cecil Johnson led the service.

Marshall started the service, and ended it. His theme both times was "God is watching."

Another consistent theme was comparing the sacrifice made by soldiers to Jesus' death on the cross.

He said he was reminded of a father's plea to a minister when he learned his son had been killed in World War II.

"'Where was God when my son was killed?' the father asked," Marshall said. "The pastor thought for a moment and said, 'I guess where he was when his boy was being killed.'"

The response made God less "remote," Marshall said, and turned him into a grieving companion for that father.

He said God looks out for those who serve him, and perhaps Messer's death might be used to inspire young people to driver safer.

Messer lost control of his car in El Paso, Texas, and it overturned. He wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle.

"Our highways are more dangerous than the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "We have had more young people killed on our nation's highways in 2008 have died in combat."

"If just the young people here responded positively, God will already be bringing good out of this tragedy."