Honoring a hero: Family buries soldier killed in Afghanistan

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Beaverton family, surrounded by nearly a thousand people, remembered their 22-year-old fallen soldier Monday during his funeral and burial.

Army Spc. John Alexander Pelham was killed Wednesday, Feb. 12 in Afghanistan.

Cameras weren't allowed inside the Beaverton church for the funeral, but reporters were invited in to listen to stories and hear his young niece sing the Star Spangled Banner, which moved everyone to tears.

At the church a motorcade, firefighters and flags surrounded the service. Inside, all of John's family members: father, mother, brother and sisters were in attendance.

They talked about the man who they called "Uncle Alex," for his middle name, and the person who was bigger than life and who always put others first. His family found strength in part due to all the support they saw Monday.

"Beyond words, amazing," John Pelham's father, Wendall, said outside the church. "We knew our son was special. We know that all of our six kids are special, but because of what John did and who he is makes him our city, our state, our country's hero and friend."

A procession escorted John Pelham's body to Willamette National Cemetery where he was buried. The street was lined with strangers holding American flags, paying tribute to Pelham.

"It makes me so proud to be an American, and so proud to be part of a community who honor those who gave their life," said one woman.

Pelham received full military honors during a moving ceremony.

About 100 of Pelham's friends and family were in the procession to the cemetery. An Army honor guard and the Patriot Guard Riders greeted his body and family.

It was a somber afternoon celebrating military traditions, but most importantly honoring Pelham's service and ultimate sacrifice.

"This man has given his life for our country, doing what his government has asked him to do, and the least we can do is to be here to honor his sacrifice and support his family," said Chris Keller with the Patriot Guard Riders.

The Army honor guard presented Pelham's family with the flag from Pelham's casket during the ceremony. The Patriot Guard Riders also presented his mother with a handmade prayer shawl.

Pelham was a graduate of Sunset High School.

The Department of Defense said Pelham died of injuries from small arms fire in the Kapisa Province.

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