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Marine killed in Iraq buried

| Tuesday, June 13, 2006, 12:00 p.m.

A Pleasant Hills man who had trouble getting into the Marines was buried Monday as a hero, the victim of a roadside bombing in Iraq.

Pvt. Steve Freund, 20, was awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marines Corps Achievement Medal with combat cluster in a graveside ceremony that followed an emotional funeral attended by about 160 friends and family.

"We mourn the loss of Steven Freund, whose life passed so quickly," said the Rev. John Hissrich, pastor at Nativity Catholic Church in South Park.

It was the first casualty in his parish from the fighting in Iraq, he said.

Freund was one of two Marines killed May 23 when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Al Kharma, a small town near Fallujah. Three other Marines were injured.

Freund had to battle to get into the Marines because he did not graduate from high school, his relatives have said.

In his homily, Hissrich related the story of a young Baltimore lawyer who wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812.

Francis Scott Key "saw the flag, tattered, torn but still flying," Hissrich said. "Key caught glimpses of that flag. That was enough to give him hope."

Freund had "a sense of understanding that sometimes we have to make sacrifices and difficult choices. Today, we are here to salute that sense," Hissrich said.

Some were there simply to honor a fallen soldier. U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, attended the service. So did Judy Miller, 64, of Brentwood.

"I didn't know him but wanted to pay my respects. He was a soldier," she said.

An "outdoor guy," Freund had hoped to turn a stint in the Marines into a way to pay for college, said his cousin Matt Freund. The two often fished together in Canonsburg or on the Monongahela River.

Hissrich said Freund knew that freedom does not come easy.

"Yes, he had to make the ultimate sacrifice, but God calls us to a place of peace," he said.

Ruth Lee's daughter, Adriane, 20, went to elementary school with Freund. His death hits close to home for a family with loved ones serving in the military.

"It's a big sacrifice. It's tough," said Lee, 50, of Brentwood.

"Steven now goes to the place where there are no questions, only answers," Hissrich said at the end of the service.

Many of those leaving the church were in tears as a bagpiper outside played the "Marine Corps' Hymn," and a large contingent of Patriot Guard Riders stood vigil.

The group aims to shield military families from protesters. There was no sign of protesters yesterday.

The Marine Corps presented two sets of medals and two flags to the family -- one to his aunt, Donna Eiben, who was Freund's legal guardian, and the other to his father, Steve Freund.

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