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Oregon lays its first war casualty to rest

On a windswept hill in Willamette National Cemetery, with sideways rain almost turning to snow, family and friends and fellow soldiers buried 19-year-old U.S. Army Spc. Brandon Tobler on Thursday.

Tobler, an Army specialist and Portland native, was killed in a Humvee accident in southern Iraq on March 22. He was the first Oregon casualty in the Iraq war.

On a ridge above the cemetery, Tom Dooley of Southeast Portland (far right) stood on a tree stump and waved a U.S. flag in Tobler's honor. 'I don't know him, but it's the least I can do,' Dooley said. 'This family made the ultimate sacrifice.'

At a memorial service at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland earlier in the day, the Rev. Terry Allen Moe remembered the man he baptized 19 years before. 'He didn't sign up for a war,' he said. 'But when it came, he did his duty with pride.'

Hundreds of people, including Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, filled the church and an overflow room in its basement to celebrate Tobler's life Ñ 'a life all too short, yet full of meaning and dignity,' Moe said.

Tobler's casket, covered with a flag, was then carried from the church, followed by his mother (below, center) and uncle Scott Tom (right, with tie), while military officers saluted.

Ñ Todd Murphy