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Once the guard, now the honored
Douglas Stone's fellow soldiers honored him on Tuesday in the same way Stone had honored many other service members: By rendering official military rites at his funeral.
Stone, who died in Iraq last week, was a regular member of the Fort Douglas-based honor guard unit that appeared at funerals for veterans buried in Utah.
In Michigan for Stone's funeral Tuesday - the Taylorsville resident died in a yet unexplained "noncombat incident" on March 11 - friend and fellow soldier Julie Atkins said she had participated as an honor guard at many funerals before, including several with Stone.
"But losing Doug made it hit a lot closer to home," she said.
Stone's job at the headquarters element of the 96th Regional Readiness Command involved preparing other soldiers for deployment.
When it came his turn to go, he did not hesitate.
"He wasn't excited about going there - nobody is," said Rick Edginton. "But the biggest thing about Doug is that he had been responsible, before he went, for helping get other people deployed over there and he walked the talk."
Stone was buried in his wife's hometown of Petoskey, Mich., about 250 miles northwest of Detroit on the shores of Lake Michigan. About 300 mourners attended the ceremony.
"It was really very beautiful," Edginton said. "The cemetery and the grave site actually overlook the lake, and it was covered over, iced over, in a sheet of white."
As a member of Stone's honor guard, Edginton said he was expected to keep his composure at the funeral. But as a friend, he found it difficult.
"For me, probably one of the toughest moments was when I was standing at the head of the casket and I looked over to the side and I saw a note from his sister on the flowers that were there," Edginton said.
"It said 'To Doug, my brother and my hero.' And you know, I could just feel the loss that the family is feeling, for the sacrifice they've made."