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.
Uniforms from several branches of the armed forces colored the crowd of about 400.
Staff Sgt. William Bader, Edmunds' former squad leader, said he remembered riding with Edmunds in a helicopter to a live-fire exercise. On the ride back, all of Edmunds' comrades looked tired and relieved.
Edmunds, however, ``still had that intense look on his face,'' Bader said. ``This is how I choose to remember Jonn.''
The Rev. Janet Forbes, of the First United Methodist Church in Cheyenne, said Edmunds left a written message for his wife of two years, Anne, before he left for Operation Enduring Freedom.
``Anne, I will be OK,'' the message read. ``I am going to come back to you. I love you and think about you all the time.''
Security at the service was tight; officers patrolled the area and some surrounding streets were closed.
The service culminated with a 21-gun salute by fellow Rangers just outside the building. A few minutes later, six Rangers carried the flag-draped casket from the building.
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 funeral 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.''
Gov. Jim Geringer had ordered flags flown at half-staff at state buildings Saturday.