1st Lt. Garrison Avery Laid to Rest Monday
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Today at the West Point Military Academy, a funeral is being held for Army 1st Lt. Garrison Avery. He was killed in a roadside bomb attack, along with two other soldiers in Baghdad on February 1. Nebraska Public Radio's Martin Wells has this remembrance.
Mr. MARTIN WELLS reporting:
Growing up in Lincoln, Garrison Avery's life was, as his father puts it, fairly saturated with the military. One grandfather served 27-years in the Air Force, and the other was a medic at the end of World War II. His uncle currently serves in the Pentagon as a chaplain.
Avery began talking about going into the Armed Forces when he was only 11, and he followed through on that plan. His mother Sue says even when he was very young, he didn't have fleeting ideas, he had specific, attainable goals.
Ms. SUE AVERY (Mother): And then we saw that through his high school years and through West Point, the same idea, making his way, looking at his options, and then just striving for that goal. And not really wavering.
WELLS: The oldest child of the family, Garrison grew up with two brothers and a sister. He attended Lincoln High, where he joined the ROTC, and discovered he had a talent for math and science.
Decked out in a white lab coat and seated before a computer workstation, high school physics teacher Jim Rynearson described a student who appreciated the link between his studies and his military training.
Mr. JIM RYNEARSON (High School Physics Teacher): When we would talk about things in physics like projectiles, he would talk about when you drop something out of a plane how that would be. He was in sky-jumping and so he would talk about how that would relate with freefall and terminal velocity. And so a lot of the things we went through he looked at them from a military standpoint. And I think that's where he made the connection and he kind of really fell in love with the class.
WELLS: Garrison Avery graduated from Lincoln High in 2000, and was recruited to attend West Point Academy. During his Junior year he came up with the idea of starting a nonprofit organization to help Iraqi orphans that he called Light by Morning.
His father Gary says he had a great love for children. In one of his letters home he talked about his concern for an elementary school in his patrol area near Baghdad.
Mr. GARY AVERY (Father): There were no doors, no windows, no electricity, no plumbing, no facilities except to go in, sit and be in the same place. And he was really thankful to be able to live in a community like Lincoln, Nebraska, that had such a marvelous school system. And the United States as a whole.
WELLS: Avery was deployed to Iraq in October. He was stationed south of Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division, where he was a platoon officer with 16 men under his command.
Gary Avery says his son loved to work with his hands, whether it was fixing up his 1965 Ford Galaxy or making alterations to his uniform. His mother, Sue, taught him to sew at a young age. She says he would redesign the straps on knapsacks, add kneepads to his uniform, and reinforce the seams.
Ms. AVERY: He had ideas of things he needed that I think were above and beyond the necessities.
WELLS: Like the collapsible cup he made entirely about of duct tape.
Ms. AVERY: And then it needed its own little pocket in his backpack, so when he needed it he knew where it was. Well, how many Army duffels or whatever they're called come with duct tape pockets? Not very many. So he would sew in a little pocket for his duct tape cup or his duct tape...
There were just lots of things that he thought he needed to go and be a well-prepared soldier.
WELLS: Army First Lieutenant Garrison Avery enlisted hoping to make the military his career. But that career ended at age 23, when a roadside bomb took his life.
Along with his parents and brothers and sister, Avery is survived by his wife, Kayla(ph), whom he married just months before being deployed to Iraq.
For NPR News, I'm Martin Wells in Lincoln, Nebraska.
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