Fallen Derry soldier gets final salute
Wind whipped the honor guard's flags and snow blew across Twin Valley Memorial Park in Delmont on Monday as mourners bid farewell to Army Sgt. Jason Alan Shaffer, remembered by his far-away platoon as "an excellent leader, an excellent friend and an excellent scout."
Shaffer, 28, a 1998 graduate of Derry Area High School, was a scout with the 1st Calvary Division. He was with his squad in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when it was hit April 5 in Baqouba, Iraq.
Bagpipes wailed as mourners crossed the cemetery lawn. Shaffer's flag-draped coffin was carried under a canopy, followed by family members.
A traditional 21-gun salute preceded the playing of taps. The flag covering Shaffer's coffin was crisply folded, and three shells -- representing duty, honor and country -- placed inside. It was then presented to his widow, Kathleen Connor Shaffer, of Hood River, Ore.
Earlier, more than 100 mourners gathered at Trinity Lutheran Church in Latrobe, where Shaffer had been baptized.
Pastor Jeffrey L. Schock offered prayers of hope and consolation in a world where the news brings regular updates about deaths of soldiers in Iraq.
"Last Holy Week, April 5, the numbers included one of our own, Jason Shaffer," Schock said.
Shaffer, the son of Roger A. and Gwendolyn A. Shaffer of Huntly, Va., realized some of his hopes and dreams during his short life, Schock said.
"Some still were out there for him," he said. "He had a great and promising life ahead of him."
Shaffer, a 2000 graduate of the Municipal Police Officer's Training Academy at Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood, was working toward a degree in criminal justice. He enlisted in the Army in 2003.
In Shaffer, "we see a young man who lived not only for himself but for others," Schock said. "What truly seemed to motivate this young man was a call to service. He was characterized by duty, courage, honor and commitment and, above all, service to others. In that service, Jason sacrificed his life."
Schock quoted Psalm 30: "Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning."
"Jason did not die in vain, and death is not the last word," Schock said. "We are reminded that Jason lives not in the darkness of death, but in the light of Christ, now and forever."
During the service, Shaffer was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
"He was a patriot and a genuine American hero," Maj. Gen. James A. Kelley said.
Comments from Shaffer's unit in Iraq, read aloud by Kelley, remembered the fallen soldier's sense of humor and his ability to get the job done, along with his excellence as a gunner and a scout.