A small wooden crate opened and a white dove that emerged circled the American flag flying at half-staff above mourners saying farewell to a Marine from Phoenix killed in combat near Nasiriyah.
Lance Cpl. Michael Williams, killed on March 23, was buried Thursday at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.
His mother, Sandy Watson, trembled as a lone trumpeter played taps. She bowed her head and cried as a Marine read a proclamation and handed her the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to her son.
About 1,000 people, including Gov. Janet Napolitano, had attended a memorial service earlier in the day in which Williams was remembered as a brave and faithful man who had a close relationship with God.
‘‘He wrote me in his last letter that his one weakness in life might be his willingness to sacrifice his life for someone else,’’ his fiancee, Heather Strange, said after the memorial service. ‘‘If he was going to go, that’s the way he would want to go. He died a hero.’’
Strange and Watson were both given folded American flags during the cemetery service, which included a bagpiper playing ‘‘Amazing Grace.’’ Seven Marines in dress uniforms gave Williams a 21-gun salute.
Strange, who has spoken the most publicly since Williams was first declared missing, broke down at the end of the ceremony, laying her head on the wooden casket and sobbing.
She and many members of the Williams’ family wore small portraits of the Marine in his dress uniform pinned to their lapels.
‘‘Everyone who knew him talks about that smile that brought joy to people’s hearts and warmed the room,’’ said the Rev. Dan Yeary, who presided over the memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church.
Williams’ brother, Joe, read a poem he wrote in honor of Michael. It read in part: ‘‘He heard the call of justice, of freedom and of truth. He said ‘If I must pay the price, I’ll do it for all of you.’ ’’