Died on May 25, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., of injuries sustained on May 4, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his RG-31 Mine Protected Vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq.
|From The Journal Star 06/03/06:
Knoxville soldier laid to rest
Saturday, June 3, 2006
by KEVIN SAMPIER
of the Journal Star
With a 21-gun salute and taps playing slowly on the bugle, hundreds of Knox County residents laid to rest a 24-year-old soldier Friday afternoon.
Friends, family, co-workers and total strangers turned out in droves at the Bethel Baptist Church for the funeral of Army Pfc. Caleb Lufkin of Knoxville.
It quickly became standing room only in the church, where the Rev. Ernest Pizzamiglio read statements written by Lufkin's family.
"Caleb, so many people have commented in the wake of this disaster on that lovely smile of yours that they will miss," wrote Lufkin's mother, Marcy Gorsline. "You were still smiling the first day of kindergarten as I found it so hard to let go of your hand. 'I'll be OK,' you said over your shoulder.
"You said the same thing as you went to Iraq as you looked over your shoulder, with your Army pack on your back."
Lufkin, a member of the 5th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., died May 25 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., from complications during surgery to repair shrapnel damage to his leg.
Lufkin suffered broken bones and lacerations May 4 in Iraq when the vehicle he was riding in struck a roadside bomb. Two soldiers riding with him were killed.
Lufkin's best friend, Chad Clevenger, told the crowd about the fun times the two had together and read a poem for his fallen friend. The crowd wept.
"Saying goodbye to you is the hardest thing I've ever done," Clevenger said.
Banjo music played over the church sound system in honor of Lufkin's skill with the instrument.
After the service at the church, a large procession of motorcycles, police cars, fire trucks and scores of cars slowly made their way to the Knoxville Cemetery in Knoxville, where Lufkin was laid to rest with full military honors.
He was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, the Combat Action Badge and the DeFleury Medal for his actions in Iraq.
Brig. Gen. Todd Semonite presented Lufkin's parents with the medals and the folded American flag from the casket and told the people gathered around the grave site about the work Lufkin did in Iraq.
He said Lufkin's team had found 12 roadside bombs during search missions for the hidden explosives.
"And somewhere, there are a lot of soldiers and children that are alive in Iraq because of Caleb's efforts," Semonite said. "We've been there. We know how dangerous it is."
Also in attendance were sergeants who served in Iraq with Lufkin and his drill instructor.
After "Amazing Grace" was played on the bag pipes and a final prayer was offered, the crowd began filing out of the cemetery.
But Marcy Gorsline stayed for a moment, sobbing with her head down, touching her son's casket for the last time - her actions showing the painful truth in the last line of her written statement.
"You are forever in my heart."