|Birth: ||Sep. 16, 1968|
|Death: ||Apr. 5, 2003|
THIS LISTING IS A MEMORIAL CENOTAPH. ACTUAL BURIAL IS ELSEWHERE
Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker
Hometown: Apollo, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Age: 34 years old
Died: April 5, 2003 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Unit: Army, A Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Incident: Killed by enemy fire during a raid into Baghdad
Army Staff Sgt. Stevon Booker was a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War and thought he had learned some valuable lessons.
In December, Booker said in an interview with the Associated Press near the Kuwait-Iraq border: "I teach my guys what I learned from the first Gulf War. One guy doesn't win a war. You have to have confidence in your equipment. The M1A1 is the best tank on the battlefield. It can destroy anything the Iraqis throw at us."
Booker was killed by enemy fire April 5 during a raid into Baghdad.
Booker, 34, of Apollo, Pa., joined the Army after graduating from Apollo-Ridge High School in 1988. He was born in Detroit, then moved with his family to the mining town of Redtown, Pa., and then to Apollo. His mother, Freddie Jackson of Apollo, said her son, who was 5-10 and 180 pounds, kept himself fit and looked dashing in his uniform.
"If it wasn't for the war, he'd have been home by now," she said. "But it's what he wanted to do. He always told me, ‘Mom, don't worry about me. We are the best-equipped military in the world, and I'm going to be fine.' "
Sgt. Booker laid to rest with honor and love
By JENNIFER GROOS and LIZ HAYES
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Thursday, April 17, 2003
APOLLO — It wasn't how Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker died, but what he died for that was important.
"There's no greater love than laying down your life for someone else," said the Rev. Matthew Wilson during the impassioned eulogy he gave Wednesday morning at the funeral for Sgt. Booker. "Stevon carried his cross just as Jesus did so that you and I can experience freedom."
The hundreds of mourners who packed the standing-room only pews of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Apollo then rose to their feet en masse. They clapped along with the deep, full praises sung by a gospel choir, swaying and waving their hands up to the heavens.
Loud, heart-rending sobs echoed throughout the church, the anguished cry of Freddie Jackson of Kiski Township, whose only son was killed April 5 during an enemy raid near Baghdad.
A decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf War and tank commander in the 3rd Infantry Division, Booker was the first soldier from southwestern Pennsylvania to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A total of 151 U.S. and British soldiers have been killed since the war began five weeks ago.
Teeming floral sprays and crosses studded with white carnations and blood red roses surrounded Booker's flag-draped casket Wednesday at the front of the church.
A picture of Booker as a younger man in full military dress was projected on the wall above the candle-lit altar.
"This is a homegoing service," proclaimed the Rev. Ron Banks of Cincinnati, Booker's cousin who led Wednesday's funeral proceedings. "Although this is a sad occasion, it's a joyous one. We know (Stevon) is with (God)."
Jackson and Booker's father, George Booker of Blairsville, were presented with the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals, which were awarded posthumously at the funeral by Major General Russel L. Honore from the Joint Force Headquarters Homeland Security in Norfolk, Va.
The Bronze Star decoration is awarded by the Army to soldiers who distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious service, while the Purple Heart recognizes those who have been wounded or killed in combat.
Highly decorated World War II veteran Sgt. William Smail, who like Sgt. Booker served in the 3rd ID, presented a Bible to Freddie Jackson on behalf of the AMVETS Post 94 in United, Pa.
A group of about 20 World War II veterans attended Wednesday's service.
"Great soldier and dear comrade, we cannot say good-bye, only farewell," said the veterans' spokesman, John E. Spisso, civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, Pennsylvania. "We will one day meet on heavenly shores."
A United States flag was given to Sgt. Booker's sister, Kimberly Booker, 32, of Lower Burrell, by John H. Hugya, an aide to Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown.
Booker later had the strength and poise to speak to the congregation on behalf of her brother Wednesday, and her words were answered with a rousing ovation.
"I asked the Lord, why did you take my brother at a time such as this," Booker said. "And he told me, this too shall pass."
Six pallbearers from the 99th Regional Support Command of the Army Reserve based in Coraopolis carried Sgt. Booker's casket from the church and later to its final resting place at Westview Cemetery in Avonmore.
About 100 cars joined in the procession, escorted by police from Apollo, Avonmore, Kiski and Bell, as well as state police troopers.
Booker's burial was honored by all of the military pomp and circumstance warranted by his 16 years of service in the Army.
Together with dozens of other veterans in an array of military uniforms, members of the Armstrong County American Legion Honor Guard circled the mourners, carrying seven American flags that flapped audibly in the early spring breeze.
"Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust," said the Rev. Matthew Wilson, intoning the Lord's prayer as the crowd pushed closer to the gravesite.
The American flag blanketing Booker's silver casket was then folded hand-over-hand into a compact triangle by the pallbearers and presented to Freddie Jackson by Maj. Gen. Honore, who knelt down on his knee in the grass before her.
Honore then broke from the formality of the ceremony to embrace the grieving mother, as retired Master Sgt. Julius Falcon of Greensburg played a haunting version of "Taps" on his bugle. Sgt. Booker's service was the 3,995th veterans funeral at which Falcon played.
Seven members of the 99th Regional Support Command delivered the 21-gun salute, firing three volleys of shots as per military tradition for fallen soldiers.
A lone white dove was released to the strains of songwriter Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American."
After the first dove disappeared from view, 70 more were released over the crowd and flew away into the April sky.
At the end of the ceremony, the mourners were asked to sing along to "God Bless America."
After a tentative start, voices began to ring out and tears began to flow again as the finality of the family's ordeal set in.
THIS LISTING IS A MEMORIAL CENOTAPH. ACTUAL BURIAL IS ELSEWHERE
Warriors Walk Memorial
Created by: Elizabeth Olmstead
Record added: Aug 25, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 15496679