News Column

Slain SEAL's Funeral Procession Ends in Austin

Feb. 13, 2013

Ciara O'Rourke, Austin American-Statesman

Melissa Mitchell bought an American flag on her lunch break Tuesday, on her way to the corner of Seventh Street and Interstate 35 in downtown Austin.

There, she stood and waited with her arms stretched high above her head, clutching the corners of the flag so it fluttered in the wind. After the white hearse carrying Chris Kyle's casket passed by, she cried, explaining that her son was in the U.S. Naval Academy.

She was among hundreds who gathered along the interstate and near the Texas State Cemetery in East Austin to honor the decorated sniper and former Navy SEAL who was killed at a North Texas gun range this month. A 25-year-old Iraq War veteran has been charged in the Feb. 2 killing of Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield.

"This is a way of showing that we are American," said Judy McCleod, who waited for the funeral procession on the Old Settlers Boulevardbridge in Round Rock.

Parents brought their children, not because they would understand, or even remember, but because they said it was important.

Mike Lamb brought a sign wishing Kyle fair winds and calm seas.

For some, the sidewalks were a place to grieve. For others, they were a forum to talk about mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder and whether the government was taking good enough care of veterans. One mother, Camerie Young, worried that anti-gun advocates would use Kyle's shooting as a soapbox.

"I have a child and I want to protect her, and I don't want my rights to be taken away to do that," she said.

But as more than 80 motorcycles roared around the corner in downtown Austin toward the cemetery about noon, the crowd waiting on Seventh Street quieted. It was the final leg of a 200-mile funeral procession from Arlington, where nearly 7,000 people attended a service for Kyle on Monday at Cowboys Stadium. Three motorcyclists in the procession were injured in Belton, about 60 miles north of Austin, following a wreck, but the injuries were not life-threatening, the Associated Press reported.

When the procession arrived in Austin, veterans saluted and women waved as cars and buses followed.

"Thank you for your support," one man called from the window of a passing SUV. "Thank you for your support. God Bless you."

Bagpipers led Kyle's casket, draped in an American flag, to his burial site. Lines of uniformed military personnel stood at attention. As has become tradition, many of the Navy SEALs took off their Trident pins and pounded them with their fists into the coffin.

Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists who attend funerals to honor fallen U.S. military personnel and to keep protesters at bay, kept watch. The burial was closed to the public, but people clustered outside.

Vietnam veteran Edward Lozano was still on Seventh Street as the funeral started. After the final car in the procession passed the corner where he had stood since 8:45 a.m., he sat in the chair he had brought with him to the curb.

"We've sent him home," he struggled to say through tears. "We've paid our respects."



Source: (c)2013 Austin American-Statesman, Texas Distributed by MCT Information Services


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