1,000 Mourn Soldier Killed in War
As the bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” more than 1,000 family members, friends and soldiers paid final respects Thursday to Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, the Ventura County resident killed last week in the war in Afghanistan.
Heads bowed and hearts aching, they gathered on the Hill of Valor at Hillcrest Memorial Park & Mortuary to honor and mourn the 28-year-old from Frazier Park, who will be buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery.
“Cody is an American hero,” said Capt. Jeff Leopold, who served with Prosser in the elite 5th Special Forces Group, based in Ft. Campbell, Ky. “The guy had more medals than generals.”
Prosser died in southern Afghanistan on Dec. 5 when a U.S. bomb missed its Taliban target and landed about 100 yards from American soldiers. Also killed were Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, 39, of Watauga, Tenn.; Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Henry Petithory, 32, of Cheshire, Mass; and five anti-Taliban Afghan fighters.
At times during Thursday’s two-hour memorial service, the grief overwhelmed. One man broke down under a flowering pear tree as widow Shawna Prosser, her voice quivering, recited a poem her son’s friend had written after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks:
Rise up, rise up Old Glory/Stand proud and stand true . . .
Prosser’s father, choking back tears, said his loss was “a heavy load.”
“He had to pay a price,” said Brian Prosser, whose service in an Army Airborne unit had inspired his son to enlist. “There have been a lot of guys before him and there will be a lot after him.”
Leopold said he and Prosser were conducting military surveillance when the bomb blast hurled soldiers across a hill. Limbs tingling and deaf in one ear, Leopold rushed to Prosser and tried to comfort his dying friend.
“Sgt. Prosser, I will always salute you,” Leopold said.
Ladder trucks from the Bakersfield and Kern County fire departments raised a 30- by 50-foot American flag against the cloudless sky. Army officers presented Prosser’s family with his Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. There were citations from President Bush and state government leaders, including Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, representing Gov. Davis.
The eulogies included lighter memories. He was recalled was a tall, wiry man who was so bad at golf he had to bribe a man to be his caddy.
And Prosser was remembered as the football captain and 1991 graduate of Maricopa High School who became a family man with a love for grilling burgers, walking his dogs and driving his truck.
“A man who anyone would be proud to call a son,” said a tearful Al Solaug, Prosser’s stepfather. “I loved Cody Prosser.”
The service ended with a 21-gun salute. As a high school choir from Bakersfield sang “God Bless America,” family and friends accompanied the flag-draped coffin to a white hearse.
“He died on the battlefield defending the American way of life,” said Sgt. Richard Walker, one of Prosser’s closest friends. “He would do anything to help his country.”
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