CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Friends and relatives gathered Saturday at a gymnasium decked with flags, wreaths and flowers to honor one of the two Army rangers killed in a helicopter crash in Pakistan.
Spc. Jonn J. Edmunds, 20, died Oct. 19 in the crash that occurred during support for a special forces raid in Afghanistan.
"It's really sad what happened, but he was doing what he wanted to do," said Amanda Schroeder, a friend of Edmunds' since seventh grade, as tears welled in her eyes.
Edmunds and Pfc. Kristofor Stonesifer were the first combat-related deaths in the U.S. war on terrorism. A service for Stonesifer, 28, was held Friday in Plumsteadville, Pa.
"You think Cheyenne is really isolated and it's not going to hit us. It just goes to show it can hit anywhere," said Debby Schutt, who wore a Navy sweat shirt for Saturday's service in the school district's Storey Gymnasium.
Schutt's late husband was in the Navy, her son served aboard the USS Nimitz during the Persian Gulf War, and her granddaughter recently enlisted in the Navy.
"I just have a lot of faith that the military is coming together to support the Americans," she said, fighting back tears. "I think that sometimes civilians take the military for granted. I'm just here to give support."
Two large American flags hung at both ends of the gym and another draped the casket. Personal photographs and mementos of Edmunds were displayed nearby, along with a large picture of him in uniform. Flowers and wreaths graced the floor of the gym.
Security was very tight. A large number of sheriff's officers patrolled the area and some streets were closed.
Gov. Jim Geringer had ordered flags flown at half-staff at state buildings.
The Edmunds family has created a Jonn J. Edmunds Memorial Fund that will provide no-interest loans to first-year Rangers. The family also is tentatively planning to create a scholarship for Wyoming students.
"Jonn joined the Army for the education benefits, and unfortunately he is not going to be able to use his," Edmunds' father, Donn, said earlier in the week. "This will help take care of deserving youth in our state (and) keep our son's legacy alive."