Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Family, neighbors mourn a soldier

Cleveland native killed in ambush

By M.R. Kropko
The Associated Press

[IMAGE] Kristy Dowdy (left) and her mother, Kathleen, released pigeons Tuesday as a final goodbye at the funeral of her father, Army 1st Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy at Holy Cross Cemetary in Brook Park.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
CLEVELAND - Mourners lined the street Tuesday as a military guard led the casket of a soldier killed in Iraq to his funeral, where about 400 people remembered him with hymns and patriotic songs.

The funeral for 1st Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy was a reminder of the price of freedom, said the Rev. John Hite, an Army chaplain.

"The real shame is that countless people in Iraq will never know Robert Dowdy's name," said Hite, who delivered the eulogy. "He died to liberate an oppressed people and he did it for God and country. He sacrificed endless hours away from his wife and little girl."

Dowdy's wife, teenage daughter and other relatives walked behind soldiers carrying the casket to the 100-year-old St. John Nepomucene Roman Catholic Church in the city's Slavic Village neighborhood. American flags flew from utility poles and yellow bows were hung in front of the church.

The 38-year-old soldier, who was 18 months from retirement, was reported missing March 23 after the 507th Army maintenance unit had been ambushed near Nasiriyah.

The Pentagon announced April 5 that he and seven others had been killed, shortly after Pfc. Jessica Lynch, part of the same unit, was rescued from a hospital.

Dowdy's wife, Kathy, thanked the military and friends for their support after the burial at Holy Cross Cemetery in suburban Brook Park.

"I would ask that everybody pray for the soldiers who are still fighting. I had a wonderful husband. He will be missed," she said to reporters through tears.

During the service, Mrs. Dowdy was presented her husband's Bronze Star for service in Iraq and a Purple Heart for being wounded in combat. Dowdy also leaves a daughter, Kristy, 14.

Dowdy served 18 years in the Army but never saw combat until called to duty in Iraq. When the war buildup began, he volunteered for duty in Kuwait.

In his last message from the Persian Gulf, a few days before fighting began in Iraq, Dowdy said he had been promoted in the field from master sergeant to first sergeant and was headed to Iraq. In his last e-mail, he prepared the family for the possibility that he might not return.

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