Thursday, August 11, 2011

Army Spc. Patrick L. Lay II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Patrick L. Lay II, 21, of Fletcher, N.C.

Spc Lay was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 11, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, Sgt. Jameel T. Freeman, Spc. Jordan M. Morris and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez.

MANATEE -- Bradenton’s native son U.S. Army Spec. 4 Patrick L. Lay II received a hero’s farewell Sunday, complete with full military honors, a “Going Home” service that focused as much on how fully the young man lived life and the lives he touched, as it did the gallantry he displayed on the field of battle as a combat infantryman.

Lay, 21, was killed in action Aug. 11 by an IED strike while on combat operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. His unit was deployed to Afghanistan in March in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

His funeral, held at the Life Covenant Sanctuary, drew more than 700 people, including family, friends, fellow active-duty soldiers, church members and hundreds of veterans whom he’d never met, who came because they felt it was their way to honor his service and support his grieving family.

Jason Gillard of Ellenton was one of more than a hundred members of the Patriot Guard who watched over the funeral and escorted the procession on their motorcycles.

Gillard, a former member of the Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion who saw combat in Panama, said he was there to “honor and respect the troops.”

“They stood for us,” he said. “Now it’s time for us to stand for them.”

Harold Garrett of Palmetto said he was standing watch on the sidewalk with an American flag because “one generation of veterans never leaves another behind.”

“Specialist Lay accomplished his mission,” Garrett said. “Now it’s our honor to support his family.

That theme -- selflessness -- resounded throughout the funeral, and was one of the scriptures chosen for the service: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”: John 15:13.

A trio of clergy officiated at the service, including The Rev. Sidney L. Poe, who described Patrick as “a child of the most idyllic, and a son raised in this community.”

“We want this to be a memorial to Patrick and his achievements, here, surrounded by symbols of color and design, both military and civilian,” the Rev. Poe said.

The Rev. James K. McDaniel reminisced about Lay, whom he had know since birth. The two men used to wrestle in McDaniel’s front yard.

“I was an integral part of his combat training,” he said.

The Rev. McDaniel was struck by the irony inherent in those who choose military service.

“They love America, yet they spend years away from her shores,” he said. “They value life, yet so bravely they ready themselves to die in the service of their country.”

Lay, the Rev. McDaniel said, just received new orders.

“He just got a promotion. He’s now a general in God’s army,” he said. “I find a huge amount of comfort in that.”

Brig. Gen. Bob Nash was the most senior soldier at the service. Although he did not know Lay personally, he read the words of those who served with him in combat. The remembrances were gathered during a memorial service held Saturday by Lay’s battalion commander in Afghanistan.

Army Spc. Patrick L. Lay II was killed in action on 8/11/11.

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