Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It was a final salute for fallen Wichita soldier Staff Sgt. Eric Nettleton Tuesday. Hundreds poured into the All Saints Catholic Church in South Wichita to help pay tribute to his sacrifice.
Nettleton died January 5th in Afghanistan. He was serving his second tour there, after also serving in Iraq. During his funeral, he was honored not only as an excellent serviceman, but also a dedicated husband, son, brother, and friend.
"From dealing with the stresses of being in war and combat, and then still being able to come home and love like nothing had ever happened," said long-time friend Jon Sponamore.
"He's in a better place and he went doing what he loved to do, and that was lead people and protect people," said friend Dewayne Cope.
He was doing both those things when he gave his life, according to a General who spoke at the service. He said Nettleton was leading the way on patrol in Afghanistan to make sure everyone else was safe, when he was killed by an IED.
"He did things for this country that none of us could even think of doing," said Sponamore.
But it's what he did in life that his friends, family, and fellow soldiers remembered in giving him their final salute... from his energetic personality, to his gift in making those around him smile.
"His smile, you know he just had a really contagious smile," said friend Christal Gonzales.
"Wherever he is, I know he's making people smile, making people happy, making people laugh," said Cope.
Those who knew him say Nettleton always honored his three great loves - love for his family, his faith and his country. And they say he always followed the motto he upheld as a patrol leader both in service and in life, "Follow me and do as I do."
"You know if you followed him you were going to go the right way," said Cope.
Nettleton was just married about a year ago. He leaves behind his wife, parents, a brother, and two sisters. Donations can be made in his name to the following organizations:
7020 A C Skinner Parkway, Suite 100
Jacksonville, Florida 32256
111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420
Rockville, Maryland 20850
Operation Freedom Memorial Foundation
P.O. Box 785414
Wichita, Kansas 67278