THOMSON --- U.S. Army Sgt. Steve McCoy, one of America's latest casualties of the Iraq war, was buried at a cemetery in Thomson on Thursday night.
As the funeral procession made its way through the town's business district, business owners and patrons came out to bid farewell to the fallen soldier.
"I don't think I've ever been as honored as I was to see the citizens of Thomson on the route from the funeral home to the grave site with the spontaneous acts of respect at every cross road," said Warrenton Mayor Tony Mimbs. "It made me feel proud to be an American."
Although Sgt. McCoy lived in Moultrie and was stationed at Fort Stewart, "Steve belonged to Warren County, too," said Mayor Mimbs. Sgt. McCoy's parents, Sam and Pam McCoy, live in Camak. Other family members live in Warren County.
Sgt. McCoy, who turned 23 just nine days before his death June 10, had been a patient at Fort Sam Houston Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio since his Bradley armored vehicle hit a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad on Easter Sunday. Four of the men with him were killed instantly, which brought the war's death toll to 4,000.
U.S. Army Gen. Jeffrey Foley, who commands Fort Gordon, met privately with family members of Sgt. McCoy before the funeral service to present them with the Gold Star Lapel Button. The button has been given to immediate family members of soldiers killed in the line of duty since World War II.
Sgt. McCoy's wife, Tabitha, and their twin children, Ryley and Landen, who are about to turn 4, also received the pin.
"We're all volunteers -- all of our guys and gals serve this country, because they choose to serve this great country," Gen. Foley said.
He said Americans should never underestimate how proud those who serve in the armed forces feel when others show their support.
"If we know that people really care, it makes us walk just a little taller," Gen. Foley said.
U.S. Army Chaplain Eugene Mack of Fort Sam Houston Brooke Army Medical Center said at the Savannah Valley Memorial Gardens grave site that family and friends of Sgt. McCoy should never forget the fallen soldier.
A SOLDIER'S TRIBUTE
The following poem sent anonymously from a first class sergeant who got to know Sgt. McCoy in the war zone was read at his funeral:
He rises with the sun,
Sings "Dog face soldier" and begins to run.
He stands proud and very tall;
For his country, he will give it all.
Those who know him are very proud;
Those who don't are the normal crowd.
For tomorrow he does not know where he may be --
protecting another country that wants to be free.
The majority will want to turn their chin;
But when someone calls for help,
He is the first to rush in.
He realizes his own blood may spill.
And the shock across his body will bring a chill.
Sometimes he is scared what it may be like;
But he serves out of love and that makes it all right.
He knows if he dies before the war is done;
Some other proud soldier will sing
"Dog face soldier" at the echoes of the gun.
And now we know his sacrifice, the pain
he bore, long days and long nights.
But he never showed regret. We are proud of
Sgt. McCoy and will never forget.