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Friends, comrades in Utah and Iraq honor soldier
Mourners on opposite sides of the globe are remembering Sgt. Rocky Payne this week. A memorial service was held Monday in Baghdad, Iraq, for the 26-year-old Utah solider, killed Wednesday when his Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb. A second service will be held in Garland on Friday morning, and Payne will be buried Friday afternoon in Howell, where he grew up.
At Monday's service, Army Capt. Benjamin Marx honored Payne's decision to re-enlist for a second tour of duty in Iraq after completing a stint there as a Marine.
"Serving previously in the Marine Corps, Rocky walked some of the same ground we defend today," Marx said of Payne, a gunner with the 497th Transportation Company who was posthumously promoted to sergeant earlier this week. "He gave his life willingly in the defense of those who cannot defend themselves."
In a packed chapel at the Army base known as Camp Striker, Marx and others recalled Payne's gift for storytelling.
"In the 497th there are two types of stories -- there are Payne's stories and there are others," Marx said. "And all others paled in comparison."
But many of those who served with Payne in Iraq knew him only as a combat-tested soldier, so Monday's memorial included a tribute to the man behind the uniform.
"We sent pictures of where he went to school, where he was raised, pictures of his home and of him as an Eagle Scout," Payne's father, Dennis Payne said of the images his family digitally sent to Iraq for the memorial. "There was a lot of just growing-up things -- of a crazy looking little laughing boy."
As a man, Rocky Payne was "at peace" with the possibility that he might die in Iraq, said 1st Lt. Cecilia Motschenbacher, who spoke at the Monday memorial.
"He saw the big picture, knew his place in the world," Motschenbacher said, according to transcripts of the service provided to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Motschenbacher read a letter left by Payne to be read in the event of his death.
"If you are reading this," he began, "it means I gave my life for a better cause."
Payne's body is expected to arrive in Utah this evening.
A viewing will be held at the Garland Stake Tabernacle at 6 p.m. Thursday. The viewing will continue Friday at 9:30 a.m. and will be followed by the funeral at 11 a.m.
Payne will be buried with military honors on Friday afternoon at the Howell City Cemetery.