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Clackamas says goodbye

Robert "Bobby" jones, slain in Iraq, is laid to rest
by: photo by Patrick Sherman, Robert Jones' mother looks on while soldiers bear his coffin away

Spc. Robert 'Bobby' Jones was interred June 29 at Willamette National Cemetery with full military honors. The Rex Putnam graduate, 22, was killed in Iraq June 17 by an improvised explosive device. He was the 2,505th member of the U.S. armed forces killed since the war began in March, 2003.

Captain David Ward, an army chaplain, read the young soldier's eulogy at a funeral service held at New Hope Community Church.

'He left a mark on everyone he touched, and none will miss him more than his family,' he said.

Ward recounted telling details about the fallen soldier's life - the fact that his favorite cartoon character was Bugs Bunny, and that as a member of 'C' Company, 40th Engineer Battalion, he was known as a jokester who brought smiles to the faces of his comrades.

'He could find the humor in the darkest moments,' said Ward.

Next to speak was Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, but before stepping to the lectern, he descended from the dais and laid his hand on Jones' flag-draped coffin.

'I am no different than you on days like this,' said Kulongoski, visibly moved. 'It makes no sense to me. Trying to understand God's will is difficult. I don't claim to understand God's will, but I believe that if we have faith and reach out through contemplation and prayer, we will bring some meaning out of this terrible tragedy.'

Continuing, the governor quoted the poem 'Ulysses' by Alfred Tennyson, saying: ''I am a part of all that I have met.'

'After more than three years of attending these painful funerals of young men who are the best that Oregon has to offer, I understand that we can also be a part of those we have not met,' he said. 'Specialist Jones' courage, heroism and grace have touched me and thousands of other Oregonians.'

Kulongoski reflected on Jones' last letter home - a brief note to his father, praising and thanking him for all that he had done.

'When I read that letter, I couldn't stop thinking about Anne Frank's famous diary,' said the governor. 'While there are many differences between those two documents, there are also important similarities:

'The two writings reveal the true character of the young people who wrote them, and they have both had a huge impact. Like the diary, Bobby Jones' words were intended to be private, but they have touched the hearts of so many.'

At the conclusion of the service, six soldiers carried Jones' coffin to a waiting hearse parked in front of the church. The funeral procession was led by more than 100 motorcycles decorated with American flags, which rolled out in two columns towards the cemetery.

All along the route, police officers blocked intersections to allow the two-mile column of vehicles to pass by unimpeded.

In an open-air ampitheater, Jones was honored with three volleys of rifle fire, and his mother, Brenda Dowell, was presented with two decorations awarded him posthumously: the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart.

Bending down before her, a soldier handed his mother the American flag from atop his coffin, folded into a tight triangle. Governor Kulongoski had performed the same gesture a moment earlier, giving her Oregon's state flag.

'Bobby Jones was the best of Oregon,' the governor said. 'His death is a loss for each and every one of us.'