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CHESTER - U.S. Army Spc. Charles Messer of Fort Lawn, a veteran of the war in Iraq, was laid to rest with full military honors at Chester Memorial Garden on a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon.
Messer, 20, died Dec. 22 when his car rolled in northeast El Paso near where he was stationed. He wasn't wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle.
Messer would have boarded a plane that same day to go home for the holidays.
Some of his fellow soldiers 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 on patrol came as well.
Messer was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas. He was in the Warriors In Transition Unit, recovering from injuries he suffered in Iraq last summer.
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 winding their way through the necessary paperwork, but Windham said they are on their way.
Messer's friends described him as a gung-ho soldier, ready for whatever mission he was called for.
Sgt. Hugo Orosco, who served with Messer in Iraq, said Messer's attitude helped motivate him.
"Always ready to go on the next mission, whatever it was," he said.
Messer was "outstanding," said Staff Sgt. Roman Garcia.
Garcia learned about 30 minutes after Messer's traffic accident that he had been killed.
He said Messer was excited about coming home to Fort Lawn for the holidays.
Messer's survivors include his parents, Douglas Edward Messer and Shelby Jean Cauthen Messer of Fort Lawn, and a brother, Eric Messer of Lancaster.