Soldier laid to rest at Mesa City Cemetery - East Valley Tribune: News

Soldier laid to rest at Mesa City Cemetery

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Posted: Saturday, September 5, 2009 4:22 pm | Updated: 2:20 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Surrounded, seemingly in order of those closest to him in life, a U.S. Army captain was buried Saturday beneath tear-sized raindrops and the softened earth of Mesa City Cemetery.

Slideshow: Soldier's funeral

Mesa soldier's body returned to family

Slideshow: Solider's body returned

Surrounded, seemingly in order of those closest to him in life, a U.S. Army captain was buried Saturday beneath tear-sized raindrops and the softened earth of Mesa City Cemetery.

Slideshow: Soldier's funeral

Mesa soldier's body returned to family

Slideshow: Solider's body returned

Killed in action, the body of U.S. Army Capt. Cory Jenkins of Mesa was flown into the Valley earlier this week after an explosive device detonated as he was riding in a Stryker vehicle Aug. 25 in southern Afghanistan.

A 10 a.m. service was held for Jenkins at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 640 E. Holmes Ave. At the same time, storm clouds blew into the East Valley.

The road to the cemetery was slick with rain, as a train of family and friends made their way. Supporters showed up in force, including more than 100 Patriot Guard Riders - a group that commonly turns out for the funerals of veterans.

At the cemetery, a small unit of U.S. Army members practiced delivering the 21-gun salute, preparing the graveside area with the flag that would be given to Jenkins' family.

Rose Crutcher of Tempe and Sharon Grassi of Mesa, both members of the Central Arizona Blue Star Moms, gathered near the graveside with 30 of the group's 70-plus members.

The Patriot Guard Riders and Blue Star Moms collected at the cemetery before the family and official funeral guests; they showed their support by flying the flag under which a son, husband and father, among many other roles, had fallen.

Co-worker and friend Daniel Miranda said he worked with Jenkins at Mesa public schools, and considered the young man a friend.

Crutcher said she, like all of the members of Blue Star Moms, was the mother of a military member.

Grassi said she showed her support by standing outside the church.

"The hall was fully packed, with so many people, and the fire department and police," she said.

Christina VanMale of Mesa stood in a long line of Blue Star Moms near the graveside, holding American flags.

VanMale's son, Seth, is currently in Iraq with the U.S. Army.

"He is tired, they work very, very long days, with no days off," VanMale said, adding he would be home in December.

As the rain continued to fall, the crowds at the cemetery grew larger, even before the official procession.

Pat Eagan, assistant state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, said 74 bikes were on the grounds Saturday, and many of them double-occupied.

The 24-year Air Force veteran said he rode to honor those killed in action, like Jenkins, and a fallen veteran he rode for a week ago in Flagstaff.

"We escort the body, and in the front is the American flag and the prisoners of war/killed in action flags," Eagan said. "Behind the hearse, we fly the gold star flag," which represents a family member who died during military service.

Saturday, they were paying their last respects to a 30-year-old father, husband, son, and all of the other titles Jenkins held in his life.

Encircling Jenkins' grave during the final moments of the burial service were family and friends, with supporters rippling around.

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