Army Pfc. Jaiciae L. Pauley
29, of Austell, Ga.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.; died Dec. 11 in Kirkuk, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat-related incident.
(Taken from www.thestarpress.com of Dec. 22 ) MUNCIE -- Pfc. Jaiciae L. Pauley never called Muncie home.
But Muncie paid its respects to Pauley, the latest of thousands of American soldiers to die as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Ray Smith of Muncie needed only one reason to salute Pauley, 29, who was buried Monday in Gardens of Memory Cemetery.
"I'm just an old Marine," said the teary-eyed Smith, pointing to the Marine emblem on the cap folded in his hands.
That's all that needed to be said for Smith and about 40 others who attended the funeral and burial of the man they never met. They were matched by another 40 members of the Patriot Guard, a group of mostly motorcycle riders who travel the country to attend the funerals of those who gave their lives to keep America safe.
"It's not about us. It's about him," said George Carter of Daleville, one of the Patriot Guard riders. "I'd drive across the United States for one of these boys."
Certainly, strangers outnumbered friends and family Monday. Local dignitaries, including the mayor and representatives from Gov. Mitch Daniels, were among those who paid their respects.
Pauley never lived here, but his father and stepmother, Roger and Teressa Pauley, moved here two years ago. They wanted to keep their son close, even after his death from a non-combat injury. (The military thus far has not said more about how Pauley died.)
He grew up as an All-American kid. Photos flashed on screens inside the funeral home that showed him as a dark-haired boy with a bowl cut and toothy grin.
Pauley loved music and was a gifted singer. He played video games and tinkered with computers, and even helped his sergeant, his team leader in Iraq, with computer problems.
On the battlefield he worked as a medic.
"He has made the difference in the lives of many," said Pastor Tom Parsons.
Too often today people look out only for themselves, Parsons said, "but every once in a while we cross paths with someone like Jaiciae."
An only child, he was especially close to his parents. Even while overseas, rarely a week went by when he didn't e-mail his dad.
Kelly Lincoln has known Pauley since high school. She was his first love, Lincoln said Monday.
She made sure they remained friends, even though she said she could never date the boy she considered her best friend. She came from Atlanta, Ga., for his funeral.
"I'm not sure what I could say right now that would do him justice," Lincoln said after the brief service. She described Pauley as a loyal friend. A good listener. One of her fondest memories is of them skipping school to watch a Star Wars movie. "We stood in line for hours."
A smile stretches across her face. And then it's broken apart by tears. Even good memories evoke tears.
She didn't understand and was shocked by his decision to enlist in the U.S. Army in the summer of 2008. Yet, the fact that he cared for others as a medic didn't surprise her at all.
"(He was) everything you could ask for in a best friend," Lincoln said. "He had so much life and so much potential. What a waste."