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Year's first war casualty laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 5:48 p.m.
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Mourners follow the funeral procession for Army Sgt. Aaron X. Wittman on Friday, Feb. 8, in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Getty Images

A crowd of more than 100 family members, friends and uniformed service members marched slowly and quietly on Friday down a hill in Arlington National Cemetery following Army Sgt. Aaron X. Wittman's coffin, draped with an American flag and carried on a horse-drawn caisson.

Wittman, 28, was the first U.S. casualty of this year.

On a bleak, cloudy afternoon, the Chester, Va., native was buried with full military honors in Section 60, where those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan lie. The crowd gathered around the coffin and bowed their heads as Army Chaplain Maj. Boguslaw Augustyn spoke to Wittman's family.

The silence of the crowd was broken by three rifle volleys from a firing party and a solemn chorus of taps by a bugler from the Army Band, “Pershing's Own.” Wittman's parents, Bertha and Duane, were then given the American flag by Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands as the band played “America the Beautiful.”

Wittman's parents were also given two cards by Bobbi Green, a representative of the Arlington Ladies, a volunteer group representing Army leadership whose members attend every soldier's funeral in the cemetery. One of the cards was from Green; the other was from the chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond Odierno.

Wittman was killed Jan. 10 while serving in the Khogyani District of Nangahar province in Afghanistan. While on mounted patrol, he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, the Defense Department said.

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