In the short life of Army Major Paul R. Syverson III, one filled with journeys throughout the Middle East and stories of heroics in Afghanistan, it was family that mattered most.
These were the people he loved: the woman he married after meeting her on a blind date at a military ball, the son he took camping in state parks, the newborn daughter he hardly had a chance to know.
Yesterday, they gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to bid farewell to Syverson, an Illinois native who was killed June 16 when a mortar shell slammed into a U.S. military camp in Balad, Iraq. He was 32.
Syverson's was a life dedicated to country and committed to family, according to those who knew him.
The life of Lance Corporal Patrick R. Adle, even shorter than Syverson's, was dedicated to country, too, but death cheated him of an opportunity to start a family of his own. Adle, a 21-year-old Marine from Bel Air, Maryland, was killed June 29, 2004, in a roadside bombing near Baghdad. Just hours after the funeral party for Syverson departed the cemetery, a group of mourners arrived for Adle.
Syverson and Adle were the 75th and 76th casualties of the Iraq war to be buried at Arlington. Though their paths probably never crossed in life, they will be forever near each other in death. Their graves lie side by side, at the end of a long row of marble headstones marking the final resting places of other Iraq war casualties.
Syverson was a highly trained Special Forces soldier, schooled in international studies and Arabic. He was a decorated veteran who had served in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He had graduated from Virginia Military Institute and married the daughter of a former U.S. ambassador to Italy. “The guy was destined for greatness,” said Paul Arndt, a friend who met Syverson in the eighth grade in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Among his achievements, relatives and friends said, was his role in the war in Afghanistan. He was among the first soldiers to respond to the 2001 prison uprising in Mazar-e Sharif, where he helped retrieve the body of CIA officer Johnny “Mike” Spann.
During the mission, an errant U.S. bomb exploded near Syverson, bursting both his eardrums and injuring his back. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. After recovering from his injuries, he returned to action and served three tours of duty in Iraq.
He had a week or two to go in his third tour when he was killed last month.
Waiting at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was his wife, Jackie, along with their son, Paul IV, 7, and daughter, Amy Elizabeth, who at the time of his death was 2 1/2 months old.
Yesterday, “Little Paul,” dressed in a tiny blue blazer, laid his head on his mother's shoulder as they sat near Syverson's grave. They held hands as they rose to put flowers on the flag-adorned coffin. Jackie Syverson kissed her hand and laid it on the coffin; Little Paul did the same.
Little Paul “knows what happened,” said his grandfather, Paul Syverson. “Whether he's just hiding it or not thinking about it or what, I don't know. . . . He has times when you can see in his eyes he's very sad.”
Just three years out of high school, Adle had no children, but he did not lack loved ones. His funeral was attended by several hundred people, and his coffin was surrounded by countless wreaths.
Adle was assigned to the Marines' 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group.
He came from a long line of military men and was the first member of his family to die in combat since a great-uncle was killed at Iwo Jima during World War II.
The chaplain at the funeral, Lieutenant Cynthia Kane, noted that Adle had cared for a comrade who had fallen ill with pneumonia and that, at the time of his death, he had been part of a convoy escorting an ambulance. “His beautiful smile lit up the world,” she said.
Kane added: “In the shadow of Lance Corporal Patrick Adle's life, which spanned a mere 21 years, we rejoice in the legacy of his restless spirit — a restlessness that led him into the United States Marine Corps in a time such as now in our world's history.”
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard