Service Pays Farewell to Fallen Warrior
A rumbling motorcycle escort of Patriot Guard Riders led the way for the white hearse that brought Capt. David Johnpaul Thompson home to his home church Sunday.
At the doorway to Grace Church in Southern Pines, his father waited with other pallbearers.
"It was just something I felt I had to do," Charles Thompson said afterward. "I served in Vietnam, and then my son became a Green Beret."
The large hall was nearly full. A photo of the soldier displayed on one of four enormous video screens dominated the center area above the stage-sized podium. The old hymn "You Raise Me Up" was heard as Thompson's father and uniformed comrades-in-arms brought the flag-draped casket down the aisle. All stood, among them the commander of U.S. Special Operations, Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr.
Down front, Thompson's wife Emily, and their two daughters, Isabelle and Abigail, and other family members were waiting to say one of three farewells to their fallen warrior. A service for his unit at Fort Bragg's Special Forces Chapel will be followed Feb. 16 by burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Pastor Randy Thornton welcomed guests and led a prayer from Psalm 100, its words shown on large screens above to the left and right, and then the congregation joined in reading the 23rd Psalm, led by Joe Wortham.
Throughout the service and at the reception that followed, Thompson's daughters seemed to be in good spirits. Both attend Episcopal Day School in Southern Pines where Isabelle is in kindergarten and Abbie, in a pre-kindergarten class.
Their dad died Feb. 5 in Wardak Province in Afghan-istan. He and another -soldier were shot by an interpreter who also killed another soldier before being killed -himself.
Unknowing, Abby had written her dad a letter with help from her teacher, Barbara Yearby.
"She drew pictures," Williams said in an earlier telephone interview. "We study letters, and last fall, when we were studying the letter 'D,' we had 'Dads Day,' and her dad came. He was a wonderful father, and all the children loved him."
There are some 25 children of military families among the 125 students at the school.
"Another little girl in the class has a father who is deployed, so we had two letters to mail," Yearby said. "Abby wanted to put a stamp on the envelope, so we went to the office and ran the letters through the machine to put postage on them. Then we mailed them."
Yearby set a chair so Abby and her classmate could climb up and put their letters in the post box themselves. Far away, eight hours ahead of U.S. time, the Army was already investigating the deaths of two soldiers and preparing to notify families back home.
Thompson's mother, Freida Jo Thompson, and his sister, Alisa Dale Mueller, with many others in the family listened as Maj. Jones "Chip" Bailey recalled his friend "Jp" Thompson, bringing loving laughter with his accounts. On the big screens could be seen photos from childhood through graduation, marriage, military service and play with his two little girls.
Elder Dick Conely, a local attorney, had been asked by Emily Thompson to deliver a message. He spoke of the Christian as a spiritual warrior, and of Thompson as a fighter against the forces of evil in both eternal and historical battles.
Capt. Aaron Bary read Isaiah 6:8, and the congregation stood to sing "I Will Raise" followed by Chaplain Greg Long offering the Special Forces Prayer.
"Go with us as we seek to defend the defenseless and to free the enslaved," they prayed. "Grant us wisdom from thy mind, courage from thine heart, strength from thine arm, and protection by thine hand."
Then the voice of Barry Sadler sounded from speakers with the familiar words of his "Ballad of the Green Beret," which has become the song of Special Forces.
Outside, Thompson's commanding general and others in uniform snapped crisp salutes as the funeral cortege and its escort departed.
Many remained to pay their respects to the family, and a long line passed by to greet Emily Thompson. When Mulholland reached her, he passed to her - with a handshake - a number of challenge coins to keep for the girls.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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