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Farewell to a hero
This northern Utah community -- which last lost a son in combat during World War II -- joined with Marines from around the nation to help the family of Lance Cpl. Michael Jacob Allred lay him to rest Monday. Allred, 22, perished Sept. 6 near Fallujah, Iraq, with six other Marines when a suicide bomber crashed into their convoy.
A week later, hundreds of mourners and 384 flags lined the route of his funeral procession in his hometown just north of Logan. Two fire ladders met over the road at the entrance to the Hyde Park Cemetery, holding a giant U.S. flag aloft.
City Hall declared Monday a day of mourning and sent postcards to all residents asking them to show up along the procession route to honor Allred, said Mayor David Kooyman. This city of 3,100 people lost three servicemen in World War II, but none in the next 60 years, he said.
A Marine color guard saluted their comrade, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps 1st Division. There also was a gun salute and two trumpeters played "Taps." A Black Hawk helicopter briefly hovered nearby before two Marines slowly folded the flag draped over Allred's coffin and handed it to his parents, Brett and Zellene Allred.
In dedicating his son's grave, Brett Allred asked that all future visitors "understand the price of freedom."
His son had earned a Purple Heart for a wound suffered last March during a fierce firefight. After his death, the Marines awarded him the Gold Star in lieu of a second Purple Heart.
At Allred's funeral, his four siblings shared humorous stories, such as the time Michael, as a youngster, served his mother's visiting LDS teachers drinks of water from the toilet. And the time he and his older brother, Brad, now 26, burned their hands and hair with rocket propellant while preparing to explode a rock out of the sandbox.
Brooke Andersen, Brad's twin, told of her sorrow when her baby was born and Michael was too far away -- at Camp Pendleton in California -- to see the infant. One day, out of the blue, he showed up on her doorstep just so he could see his new niece, Andersen said.
"Michael was always the fashion consultant at our house. He always knew what would look best," said his younger brother, Daniel, 18. "Michael always took the fear out of things."
He was a jokester, said his youngest brother, Adam, 16. When the family went to the Salt Lake City airport to meet him after his first tour of duty in Iraq, Michael stood next to them, unnoticed, pretending to be looking for someone else.
"He definitely wanted to be the best of the best and he was," Brad said.
A 2000 graduate of Sky View High in Smithfield, Michael Allred was with the Marines when they first rolled into Baghdad early in the war and came home in May 2003. He went back to Iraq last March and was to return to the United States next month. He would have finished his four-year commitment early next year and had talked of becoming a teacher or having a career in law enforcement -- after taking a few long motorcycle rides.
Marine Sgt. Jeremy Parker, who served for two years with Allred, read the Oath of Enlistment that Allred had taken in the Marines and recalled how Allred would seek him out during the assault on Baghdad to pray together.
Parker thanked those at the funeral for the support shown the troops. "This is America right here, and this is what we fight for."
Parker said he wondered at first why God would allow Allred to die, when he was just the kind of guy needed on your side for battle.
"I've come to realize he's just the kind of guy you want on your side in heaven," he said.
Two other Marines from the 1st Division -- Staff Sgt. Garriman Woods, of Indianapolis, and Sgt. Josue Magana, of Los Angeles -- both used canes at Monday's funeral and burial.
The two were seriously wounded last April in an attack in Fallujah. Woods was hit with shrapnel in his foot and Magana was shot in the back.
They came from San Diego to show respect for Allred, although they had never met him. "We're in the same unit. We're all brothers," Magana said.
Diane Anderson, of Wellsville, the mother of a serviceman, also came to pay her respects. She held a white rose tied with red and blue ribbon for the casket. Her son, Cody, is in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and had left Fallujah just as Allred's unit arrived last spring.
"They never crossed paths, but their families do," Anderson said. "My heart breaks for this family."
Outside the LDS meetinghouse where Allred's funeral was conducted, children had attached small yellow signs to flags stuck in the grass.
One, written by 5-year-old Daniel Anderson of Hyde Park, said: "We are sad with you."