Dec. 16, 2003, 2:40PM
Thousands pay their respects
to League City soldier who died in Iraq
By RUTH RENDON
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
Deborah and Michael Hutchinson are presented with the U.S. flag that covered the coffin of their son, U.S. Army Spc. Ray Joseph Hutchinson, as he is laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Houston today.
Clutching flags and shivering, schoolchildren lined the streets of southeast Houston to somberly watch a hearse and miles of cars wind their way to the cemetery where U.S. Army Spc. Ray Joseph Hutchinson was laid to rest today.
The 20-year-old rifleman, a 2001 graduate of Clear Creek High School, was killed in Iraq last week while returning to his base from a security patrol. His Humvee drove over a handmade explosive device that was detonated by remote control in Mosul. Two other soldiers in the same vehicle were critically wounded.
Today about 700 people turned out for his funeral at Sagemont Church, including former classmates, League City leaders, uniformed soldiers from all branches of the military and U.S. Rep Tom DeLay.
A flag topped his silver casket, flanked by red, white and blue flowers and a framed photograph of the youthful soldier. A pair of black Army boots sat on a pedestal, along with a rifle and a helmet.
Brigadier General Tom Bostic spoke and was on hand for the presentation of a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry badge to Hutchinson's family.
"He did a great job, a wonderful job in this final function," Bostic said. "We want to let him know what a great job he did."
Hutchison, 20, was an Army rifleman.
A slideshow of Hutchinson's life in the military was shown, along with a slide show of his personal life, his baby pictures, his first tooth.
Hutchinson grew up in League City, just south of Houston. At Clear Creek High School, he was an active student, playing the saxophone in the band and serving as the photographer of the school's newspaper.
After graduating, he attended Texas State University in San Marcos for a year before quitting to enlist in the Army in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
He took airborne training to learn to be a parachute trooper as well as a rifleman. He was transferred to 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell just two weeks before he was shipped to Iraq at the start of the war, his family said.
Before leaving for Iraq, he stopped by at his old high school in uniform to say goodbye to his teachers.
In his last telephone conversation with his parents, two days before his death, he said he wanted to come to Houston for his grandmother's heart surgery but did not want to bump another soldier already scheduled to leave Iraq.
As today's funeral procession rolled toward Forest Lawn Cemetery on Almeda Genoa, small flags waved from the car windows and thousands of Houston residents gathered along the streets to pay their own respects. Neighborhoods along the way erected flags in the medians.
Hutchinson was supposed to be home for Christmas, but for his family and friends -- and for many who never knew him -- it was a heartwrenching homecoming.