Community gathers to honor soldier's sacrifice (w/video)
April 25, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated April 24, 2014 at 11:25 p.m.
DANYLUK'S AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
• Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Certificate of Achievement, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Badge.
• He completed the Master Driver Trainer Course, the Ranger Assessment Selection Program, the Airborne School and the Combatives Level 1 Course.
SOURCE: FORT DRUM PUBLIC AFFAIRS
• Operation Enduring Freedom began Oct. 7, 2001.
• All operations focus on counterterrorism activities.
• 2,314 Americans have died in Operation Enduring Freedom, and 19,718 have been wounded in action.
Source: Department of Defense
Hours before the funeral service began, supporters and sympathizers began lining the procession route Friday for Army Spc. Kerry M. G. Danyluk.
Since joining the Army in October 2010, Danyluk, 27, of Yoakum, sacrificed his time and eventually his life for his country.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Danyluk's sister, Kristine Hansen, of British Columbia, said during the funeral at Faith Family Church that the past two weeks felt like a bad dream, but prayers and support helped them make it this far.
"He is truly irreplaceable, and I have no idea how it will be now without him," Hansen said to an estimated gathering of 300. "His deployment to heaven will be the longest deployment yet, and we will miss him so much until God calls us to our deployment to be with him."
For those who knew him, Danyluk's courage, compassion and humility allowed him to put his heart in the crosshairs while deployed for a second tour in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He was known for his quiet and patient strength, his sister said, along with his love of shooting, welding, fixing things, climbing trees and blowing things up.
"For all of you who have never met him, even though the loss his friends and family are carrying is incredibly heavy, I'm more sorry for you because you will never know him," she said. "You'll never be taught by him; you'll never experience his infectious humor or see the light in his eyes that we all saw."
Danyluk died April 15 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany of injuries suffered April 12 when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire in Pul-e-Alam, Logar province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
Friday was the first military funeral Nick Lowry, 31, of Victoria, attended since getting out of the Navy seven years ago.
He felt compelled to attend, to pay his respects to a man he never met and to those he'll never see again.
"I thought it was important to come out as a veteran to show my support," said Lowry, who served two tours in Iraq. "I wanted to say goodbye to the brothers I didn't get to say goodbye to."
Lowry was one of hundreds gathered outside the church and the procession route along Ben Wilson Street and Sam Houston Drive with posters, flags and an outpouring of support and gratitude for the 27-year-old Army sniper and his family.
It's important for the community to band together in times like these, he said.
"These guys signed a check with the balance being up to death," he said. "Not everyone makes it home."
Many present were also present Wednesday in a procession to escort Danyluk's remains from the Victoria Regional Airport to Grace Funeral Home.
Mike Allen, 41, of Seadrift, was one of them passing through the crowds, handing out flags and hearing stories from veterans and supporters.
"We were there when his remains were flown in," said Allen, who recently retired from the Army. "The showing of support at the airport was amazing - not just from veterans but from the whole community."
Behind a gold fringe border on an oversized U.S. flag, Rachel Parsons and about a dozen administration staff at Golden Crescent Head Start stood proud Friday for their hometown hero.
She hoped the display would serve as a reassurance to the family on their way to the service.
"Even when you have a city this size, it hits home," Parsons said. "I'm hoping it's heartwarming and provides them with some comfort and support."
Along with the group, Gina Diaz, 60, of Victoria, said politics weren't a factor.
"It's the people and families we have to recognize and say thank you to," she said.
The crowd should feel blessed for the privilege to attend, Diaz said.
"You can't help but get that lump in your throat when you see so many people out here," she said. "We're very fortunate to be able to do this."
On the heels of Easter Sunday, the message of sacrifice was on the forefront of Faith Family Church Executive Pastor Larry Helms' funeral sermon.
Danyluk had tremendous character, focus, humility, perseverance and sacrifice, Helms said.
"He sacrificed his body, his mind, everything to be the best soldier he could be," Helms said. "He persevered, and he sacrificed."
But there's good news in everything, Helms reassured the congregation. "The good news is, we know where he is.
"I would love to honor the memory of Kerry with the fact that we all understand that there's someone greater than all of us in the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "The way you'll see Kerry again is to make that step that says, 'I believe.'"
Just outside the sanctuary, Mike Hess, 65, of Cuero, reflected on the morning, the procession and his own experience at war.
He had never met the Army specialist but helped lead a pack of dozens of motorcyclists riding with the Patriot Guard to Faith Family Church.
"It was humbling," Hess, a Vietnam veteran, said. "It kind of choked me up seeing all those people lining the streets, just the community support."