HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Local & State
June 29, 2005, 8:00AM
'TO US, HE WAS A HERO'
1,500 say goodbye to soldier
On his 19th birthday, a private killed in Iraq is laid to rest in Columbus
By THOM MARSHALL
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Christopher Kilpatrick posthumously received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal.
COLUMBUS - Pfc. Christopher Reed Kilpatrick would have turned 19 on Tuesday — the day hundreds of friends and relatives who watched him grow up, helped him grow up, or grew up with him said their final goodbyes to a hometown hero.
Kilpatrick was killed June 20 in Iraq when the Humvee in which he was riding was attacked. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal.
"They tell us that, when the official report is filed, it will be sent to the Kilpatricks and at that time we will get the details (of the attack)," said the Rev. Sammy Carr, pastor of First Baptist Church.
Kilpatrick's funeral was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall just outside Columbus in Colorado County because First Baptist, where he was a member, is not large enough to accommodate all who were expected to attend.
Funeral director Robert Henneke estimated that 1,500 people, a sizable percentage of Columbus' population of 3,900, attended the service.
"To us, he was a hero," said Doyle Lakin, a family friend. "Welcome to the heartland."
Beneath large oak trees with wide yellow ribbons tied around them, several local veterans met to enter the hall together. Many people came dressed in their Sunday best and others came in their work clothes.
"That's the emergency-room doctor," Lakin said, pointing out a woman dressed in green scrubs.
Kilpatrick — known to many here by his nickname, "Critter" — was honored as a hero from the moment his body was returned to the area.
The airplane that brought his body back Sunday taxied through a water salute shot into the air by Houston firefighters. Houston motorcycle police escorted the hearse from Bush Intercontinental Airport west to Columbus, Henneke said, where 4,000 to 5,000 people gathered to pay tribute.
Those who shared memories of the young soldier spoke at the funeral of his perpetual good humor and wit.
"He never knew a stranger," said Sloane Pavalock. "He was the image of his father and the apple of his mother's eye."
Kilpatrick's fellow seniors in the class of 2004 voted him "most outspoken."
He played basketball for the Columbus Cardinals and was known for making long three-point shots. He was also an Eagle Scout.
Carr told the gathering how he first met Kilpatrick about 12 years ago. It was a Wednesday evening, the pastor said, and he was in the church while several youngsters were on the playground.
"Some people came and got me and said somebody had hit my son," Carr said, retelling the story after the service.
He said he headed for the playground to check on his son, Luke, who is mentally retarded.
"But by the time I got there, the kids told me, 'Christopher has already taken care of it,' " he said. "Christopher had already got the guy who hit Luke. Christopher had already taken care of business."
Through the years, Carr said, Kilpatrick "was just always good to Luke," would give him a hug or ask him how he was doing.
He said that, after Kilpatrick's body was brought to the church Monday for visitation, Luke looked into the casket and said, "Dad, that's Christopher, my best friend."
Survivors include Kilpatrick's father, Scott Kilpatrick, and stepmother Melissa; his mother, Tracy Hanak, and husband Zachary; sisters Jaclyn and Morgan Kilpatrick; and stepsisters Elizabeth and Rebecca Boulware.
God bless his soul.
Damn, 'nother good soldier bites the big one
+ me too
May his journey be fast to where he deserves....RIP
May God bless Privat First Class Christopher Kilpatrick, United States Army.