Spc. James M. Kiehl

December 22, 1980 - March 23, 2003
Comfort, Texas - Nasariyah, Iraq

Killed in action after his convoy was ambushed in Iraq on March 23, 2003.
He was assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company, Fort Bliss, Texas


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Commentary on James's Funeral




This is an email I sent to my church choir when I returned from James's funeral in early April. I have received countless emails and phone calls about this, how emotionally powerful it is to read, and how it has circulated the Internet. It's amazing how small our world is sometimes and just how much one person's life, James's, can touch so many others.

I'm back, it was certainly a quick trip, but I have to also say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There is a lot to be said for growing up in a small town in Texas.

The service itself was impressive with wonderful flowers and sprays, a portrait of James, his uniform and boots, his awards and ribbons, his boots.

There was lots of military brass and an eloquent (though inappropriately longwinded) Baptist preacher. There were easily 1000 people at the service, filling the church sanctuary as well as the fellowship hall and spilling out into the parking lot. However, the most incredible thing was what happened following the service on the way to the cemetery.

We went to our cars and drove to the cemetery escorted by at least 10 police cars with lights flashing and some other emergency vehicles, with Texas Rangers handling traffic. Everyone on the road who was not in the procession, pulled over, got out of their cars, and stood silently and respectfully, some put their hands over their hearts, some had small flags. Shop keepers came outside with their customers and did the same thing. Construction workers stopped their work, got off their equipment and put their hands over their hearts, too. There was no noise whatsoever except a few birds and the quiet hum of cars going slowly up the road.

When we turned off the highway suddenly there were teenage boys along both sides of the street about every 20 feet or so, all holding large American flags on long flag poles, and again with their hands on their hearts.

We thought at first it was the Boy Scouts or 4F club or something, but it continued .... for two and a half miles. Hundreds of young people, standing silently on the side of the road with flags. At one point we passed an elementary school, and all the children were outside, shoulder to shoulder holding flags ... kindergartners, handicapped, teachers, staff, everyone. Some held signs of love and support.

Then came teenage girls and younger boys, all holding flags. Then adults. Then families. All standing silently on the side of the road. No one spoke, not even the very young children. The last few turns found people crowded together holding flags or with their hands on their hearts. Some were on horseback.

The military presence ...... at least two generals, a fist full of colonels, and representatives from every branch of the service, plus the color guard which attended James, and some who served with him ... was very impressive and respectful, but the love and pride from this community who had lost one of their own was the most amazing thing I've ever been priviledged to witness.

I've attached some pictures, some are blurry (we were moving), but you can get a small idea of what this was like.

Thanks so much for all the prayers and support.

Vicki
email


Photos taken by my 17 year-old daughter, Amy, from the backseat of the car
using the still shot mode of our video camera

Click here to see all our funeral procession photos