Friday, August 05, 2011

Army Spc. Mark J. Downer

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Mark J. Downer, 23, of Warner Robins, Ga.

Spc Downer was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 5, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

WARNER ROBINS -- More than 200 people gathered inside Southside Baptist Church Saturday to remember a family member, friend and fallen hero in Army Spc. Mark J. Downer.

Downer, 23, was killed Aug. 5 in Afghanistan. A combat medic stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., he died in Kandahar province as a result of a rocket-propelled grenade attack, according to the Department of Defense.

“He always did what was best for others,” said Downer’s aunt, Sandra Downer, during the service. “The profession he chose -- to be a medic -- was a dangerous one, and he’s a very intelligent young man, so he knew the danger that would befall him, but he did it anyway. He strived to do his best.”

Beside his silver coffin draped with an American flag, sat two medals awarded to Downer -- the Purple Heart and Bronze Star -- and presented to Downer’s father, Garfield Downer, during the funeral service.

“Spc. Downer’s commitment contributed to our nation’s continual war on terrorism and his actions represented his dedication to the security of the United States of America,” read the citation for the Bronze Star. “His sincere desire to bring peace and stability to a foreign nation is an example of what all American soldiers strive to achieve.”

“No greater honor can be demonstrated by his ultimate sacrifice and he will be forever remembered for his actions,” it stated.

Downer, who joined the army in 2009, was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. His unit deployed to Afghanistan in March.

Many of those who attended Saturday’s service and lined the streets Friday as Downer’s remains were escorted through Warner Robins did not know the soldier, but still wished to pay their respects to a man who gave his life serving the country.

“Everyone that met him liked him,” Sandra Downer said. “All the people that we saw yesterday was a testament of that. ... The streets were lined with people waving flags, standing at attention, just showing their love and caring. That doesn’t come to a stranger that doesn’t give back.”

“All of his selfless love and affection for others was expressed by this town yesterday and by the audience here today,” she said.

Family and friends remembered Downer as quiet spirit. He was the first boy in a family full of girls, they said, which brought them great joy.

“Mark, being our first boy ... he was celebrated when he got here. He’s celebrated now. We love him,” Sandra Downer said.

A 2005 graduate of Northside High School, Downer played on the football team and ran track, finishing eighth in the triple jump in the state meet in 2004.

Courtney Chaplin, a former classmate of Downer’s, described him as funny, loving, caring, a free spirit and selfless

Spc Downer is survived by his parents and one child.

Army Spc. Mark J. Downer was killed in action on 8/05/11.

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