|From The Detroit
Free Press 11/12/06:
Laughter amid funeral tears
Fallen Marine, 24, was jack-of-all-pranks
November 12, 2006
BY AMBER HUNT
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
They came with stories of Troy Nealey the prankster, the farmer, the electrician, the brother to everyone he knew.
And then there was Lance Cpl. Troy D. Nealey, the U.S. Marine.
On Saturday, Nealy, 24, was honored with a funeral service in his hometown of Eaton Rapids, a rural city near Lansing.
"I always thought he was pretty much invincible," said friend Jason Ottney, who was a grade behind Nealey in high school.
But Nealey wasn't invincible. He was killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq, on Oct. 29. A Reserve Marine assigned to the Charlie Company in the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of the 4th Marine Division, Nealey had been overseas just a month when he died.
David Johnson, principal of Eaton Rapids High School, and teacher Ben Gellis -- both of whom grew to be friends with Nealey -- read messages from family, friends and fellow Marines about Nealey, a broad-smiled young man who had no trouble finding dates.
Among the comments:
"He showed me what it was to be a Marine."
"His positive attitude, his big smile ... will never be forgotten."
"That was our Troy -- annoying at times, but always a true friend."
Gellis said he struggled to find a way to honor the man who hoped to be an electrician or a farmer.
He finally decided: "I planted a tree in Troy's memory. I planted it in my yard," he said. "It's Troy's tree."
But while the comments drew sniffles and sobs from the audience of more than 1,000, some drew laughs as well.
Other friends shared tales of Nealey dangling fake spiders from rafters at animal auctions to scare passersby.
He loved going to bonfires, and he'd been known to duct tape a friend or two to a chair.
Pastor Scott Boles of the First Baptist Church in Eaton Rapids said Nealey's family has been inundated with support and well wishes.
Support came from beyond Eaton Rapids. Overseas in Iraq, when one group of Charlie Company Marines learned of their comrade's death, they raised a flag, then lowered it to half-staff.
Family friend Tonya Clough said her daughter, Chelsea, 6, offered her the most comfort about Nealey's death.
"She said, 'Mom, you're so silly,' " Clough said. " 'There's another star in the sky, and we can talk to Troy whenever we want.'
"So if you need any advice, come talk to Chelsea."