Farewell service held for fallen JBER soldierFarewell service held for fallen JBER soldier
A ceremony April 26 at the Soldier’s Chapel on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson commemorated the life and sacrifice of Army Spc. Jeffrey Lee White, a paratrooper from the currently deployed 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., White was killed in action April 3 in the Khowst Province of Afghanistan. Five other Soldiers were wounded in the improvised explosive device attack.
Mourners filled the chapel as the official party of the ceremony led them through the events
Army 1st Lt. Joshua Taylor read from a passage that White’s commander had spoken at a similar memorial for White in Afghanistan.
“’He was a fantastic soldier,’” Taylor read. “’Specialist White was athletic and courageous, I am proud to have been his commander.’”
Following Taylor’s remarks, Staff Sgt. Raymond Fain, White’s former team leader and squad leader, spoke about the fallen Soldier’s accomplishments.
“I remember Jeffrey as being open minded and eagerly loving [airborne jumps].” Fain said, struggling to maintain his composure. “He was a hard worker, a hard studier and he played just as hard as he worked. He loved hockey, especially the Saint Louis Blues, which was his all-time favorite hockey team. He was the definition of a paratrooper and one of the toughest fighting men in the world.”
Following his emotional remarks he referenced the biblical passage Luke 36:8 and concluded with the poem “What I Miss Most” by James Love
Chaplain (Maj.) Steven Lambert delivered a brief benediction before the final segment of the ceremony, the “Last Roll Call”.
Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Rose stood and began to call off names, to which the called-upon Soldiers in attendance responded.
The third name in the procession was intentionally that of Spc. White, which Rose repeated twice. The ensuing silence was meant to further emphasize his absence from the ranks.
After the third unanswered call, a crack of gunfire rang out from just beyond the walls of the chapel as seven fellow paratroopers fired three volleys of 21 shots and were followed by the soft playing of Taps.
After the ceremony, guests were permitted to approach the memorial, a collection of the Soldier’s personal belongings: his helmet mounted on a rifle and fixed onto a pedestal with an attached bayonet, metal identification tags draped around the pistol grip of a rifle and his boots respectfully placed at the position of attention. This simple monument to the soldier who wore and used these items is known as a “Soldier’s headstone.”
Flanking either side of this memorial were 8x10 photographs of Spc. White.
As they left, White’s fellow soldiers filed by the monument and saluted in respect as other loved ones paused with their own tender moments of silence.
Some left small tokens on the memorial as they left. Most were military coins, which are given to soldiers as a sign of respect and a show of recognition for personal achievement.
Others left personal objects, which would only be understood by the soldier himself.