Remembering Sgt. William Allers
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A member of the Kentucky Army National Guard was buried at Arlington National Cemetery last week. Army Staff Sergeant William Allers III was killed in Iraq on September 20th. The Humvee that he was riding hit a roadside bomb. He was 28 years old. He was from Fallston, Maryland, and he was killed one month before he was to return home. We have more this morning from Melody Simmons of member station WYPR in Baltimore.
MELODY SIMMONS reporting:
After a brief funeral service, childhood friends remembered Bill Allers as a kid who liked to play with his buddies outdoors till dusk. They called themselves the Dukes of Hazzard. Dan Wagner met Allers when they were five years old.
Mr. DAN WAGNER (Childhood Friend): He was just fun and full of life, just always getting into mischief, just doing what, you know, us kids always wanted to do, you know. If you wanted to look for Billy, you found him up in a tree. He's going to be greatly missed.
SIMMONS: It's been 10 years, but Allers is remembered by his old track coaches at Fallston high school. At a track meet this week, the Cougars cheered wildly as the last member of their cross-country team straggled across the finish line. Coach Greg Thompson says it was that kind of camaraderie that Allers was known for.
Mr. GREG THOMPSON (Coach): I saw him as a very quiet freshman. And then as we went through the four years, he molded into a leader and he wanted to be part of the team and he wanted the team to do as well as possible, and would always encourage the younger participants when he became one of the seniors.
SIMMONS: Allers became a long jumper and mastered the high jump. He was the anchor of the relay team, always carrying the baton in the final stretch toward the finish line. His dedication made him a team captain at his senior year, the same year he enlisted in the Army.
Mr. THOMPSON: He was selfless. He just was for everyone else and he wanted to see everybody else excel. And he wasn't worried about himself.
SIMMONS: Thompson said these lessons from track and field exemplified Allers' character: self-discipline, teamwork, leadership. Altogether, the sport helped transform what one of his coaches called `a squeaky little freshman' into a soldier. Those characteristics served him well outside Baghdad, where he was involved in more than 25 battles with insurgents. Major General Donald Storm of the Kentucky National Guard.
Major General DONALD STORM (Kentucky National Guard): This was a first-rate professional soldier. Some of the things he did, not only on this operation, probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
SIMMONS: After 10 months in Iraq, Allers was preparing to return home to Leitchfield, Kentucky, to his wife who is pregnant and an eight-year-old son from a previous marriage. For his courage, Allers was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He was the 10th member of the Kentucky National Guard to die in Iraq. Sergeant Allers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Many from his unit made the 13-hour trip to pay their final respects. For NPR News, I'm Melody Simmons in Baltimore.
INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.