|Orfordville soldier laid to rest|
|Written by Dan Plutchak|
|Wednesday, 09 May 2012 07:21|
Brent and Kristine Mikkelsen, along with their grandson, Joey stand to pay their respects as the hearse carrying the body of Cpl Benjamin Neal of Orfordville passes on it's way to St. Williams Church in Janesville Tuesday for Neal's funeral. For more photos, see Facebook.com/StatelineNews Dan Plutchak/Stateline News.
ORFORDVILLE -- There was a time, not long before Sept. 11, 2001, that a freshly minted high school grad could join the military to serve their country, learn leadership and see the world.
That wasn’t Benjamin Neal’s time.
Instead, the 2009 Parkview High School graduate joined the military knowing that the United States was involved in two dangerous wars in the Middle East, and that survival was not a certainty, but a goal for each day.
Only 21, he was on his second tour of duty when his life was cut short April 25 by a roadside bomb in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. His funeral was Tuesday.
It’s true he paid the ultimate price in service to his country, but so did his family, including his wife, Emily, parents Don and Trish and his siblings Bradley, Becca, Brendan, Brooke and Bridgette.
Neal’s remains returned to Wisconsin last week Saturday, with an emotional homecoming at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.
The white hearse carrying Neal then made its way to his hometown of Orfordville, where hundreds turned out to pay respects to their fallen warrior.
The night before, Larry the Flag Guy, who travels to communities where soldiers have died, organized a contingent of volunteers to line the route with nearly 2,000 American flags.
Members of the American Legion, as well as the Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization of motorcyclists whose members attend military funerals, led the procession into town as the community stood in silent tribute as the hearse passed by.
Classes were cancelled Tuesday, and the funeral had to be moved to Janesville to accommodate the large number of mourners expected to attend.
Neal’s funeral procession criss-crossed southern Wisconsin again Tuesday on its way to St. Williams Catholic Church, passing by the family farm where Neal will never again see the promise of spring crops rise from the fields.
Neal’s death touched people who never knew him.
Even before his body returned home, residents began to leave their porch lights on as a silent vigil.
Like neighbors arriving with a hot meal to comfort those who have suffered a tragedy, the porch light movement spread across the country thanks to a Facebook page started in Neal’s honor.
By day’s end Tuesday, Neal had been laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in Evansville.
Three others with connections nearby have preceded Neal. They include Justin Linden, who grew up in Clinton and died June 4, 2001 in Baghdad.
Spc. Keith Nurnberg of Genoa City died in Iraq at the age of 26 and is buried in Bloomfield Cemetery in Walworth County.
Sgt. Matthew D. Hermanson was killed in Afghanistan just a year ago, on April 28. He and his wife, Rachel, a former teacher in Elkhorn would have celebrated their second anniversary Tuesday, the same day is Neil's funeral.
Neal joins them and will be remembered for his bravery, courage and commitment to his country.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 07:29|