Army Staff Sgt. Roy P. Lewsader, Jr., 36, of Clinton, Indiana
SSgt. Lewsader was assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died June 16 in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, from wounds sustained when his vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.
Crowd turns out to honor return of Army Staff Sgt. Roy P. Lewsader Jr.
Clinton native killed in Afghanistan
By Arthur E. Foulkes
TERRE HAUTE — Six military pallbearers stood at attention as the flag-draped casket of Army Staff Sgt. Roy P. Lewsader Jr. of Clinton was lowered slowly out of a jet Saturday morning at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.
The pallbearers carried Lewsader’s casket across the tarmac to a waiting hearse while friends, family, military personnel and others wanting to pay their respects looked on.
“Daddy is coming home,” Melissa Lewsader said she told their children that morning as she dressed and got ready to meet her husband as she always did when he was coming back from a tour of military duty.
“I did my makeup and everything,” she said, smiling faintly.
Lewsader, who died from wounds he received when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle in southern Afghanistan on June 16, was scheduled to return home from his current tour of duty July 1, Melissa Lewsader said.
“I thought this would get easier” as the days went by, she said. “But it’s gotten a lot more difficult.”
Dozens of motorcycles with the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders, police vehicles and family members escorted Lewsader’s hearse from Hulman Field through northern Terre Haute to Frist Funeral Home in Clinton, Roy Lewsader’s home town.
“We feel these guys are true American heroes,” said Jim Moxey, senior ride captain with the Patriot Guard Riders. Members of the motorcycle escort group carried large American flags ahead of and behind Roy Lewsader’s hearse all the way along the transportation route.
“We’ve got to show America that we support these boys,” Moxey said.
Hundreds of people crowded both sides of Indiana 163 at the edge of Clinton as Roy Lewsader’s motorcade arrived in his hometown before noon Saturday.
Smaller groups of people also turned out in nearby Lyford to greet the passing procession.
Roy Lewsader loved his job and volunteered for the mission he was on in Afghanistan, Melissa said. He believed in what he was doing “110 percent,” she said.
“He loved where he was. He loved the [Afghan] people,” she said.
Roy Lewsader enlisted in the Army on his 17th birthday in 1989, Melissa said of her husband. He did two tours of duty in Korea and was on his second tour in support of the current U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq when he was killed, she said.
Melissa said she is happy she and her husband decided recently to return to Clinton, which is where both were raised. Being around family has helped during this time, she said.
“I can’t express my gratitude enough to the Wabash Valley,” Melissa said. The Indiana National Guard, the American Legion and others have all reached out to her and her family, she said.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Melissa said.
At the end of the drive from Terre Haute to Clinton, military pall-bearers again carried Roy Lewsader’s casket, this time from the hearse into Frist Funeral Home on Blackman Street.
Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Frist Funeral Home.
Lewsader’s funeral is 10:30 a.m. Monday, also at Frist, with burial to follow at Roselawn Memorial Park with full military rites.
A dinner will follow at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6658 on North Ninth Street in Clinton.
“We’re here to show support for the families” of American servicemen and women, Moxey said of the dozens of motorcycle riders who escorted Roy Lewsader home for the last time.
“To us they really are heroes,” Moxey said.
Army Staff Sgt. Roy P. Lewsader, Jr. was killed in action on 6/16/07.
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