Orono soldier receives final salute, laid to rest

Posted July 02, 2010, at 11:39 a.m.

OLD TOWN, Maine — Hundreds of people gathered in Lawndale Cemetery on Friday morning to say a final goodbye and offer a final salute to Staff Sgt. Brandon Silk.

After a private funeral service at United Baptist Church of Old Town, the Rev. Bruce Stevens presided over a ceremony for Silk, 25, an Orono native and member of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division who died last week in Afghanistan.

Stevens used an object lesson to talk about the tragic death of Silk, who died after a hard landing in a Black Hawk helicopter.

The pastor compared Silk to a small silver cup.

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“It was created from metal from the Earth and was crafted … as Brandon was crafted by God,” Stevens said, holding the cup in his hand. “The cup is distinct with carvings … as Brandon was distinct.”

The pastor went a step further.

“This cup is made of silver. It’s precious and valuable. Brandon, too, was valued,” he said. “The cup was created for a purpose, as Brandon also was assigned a purpose.”

Though the cup was well made, it was not indestructible, Stevens said. And though Brandon was tough and resilient — he served four tours of duty overseas — his body was not indestructible.

And while his mission here is over, the soldier’s next mission already has begun, the pastor said.

The solemn ceremony lasted about 45 minutes. After Stevens’ words, seven soldiers fired their guns saluting Silk, which was followed by taps from a lone bugler.

More soldiers unfolded two flags in perfect triangles that were placed near an urn housing Silk’s cremated remains and then refolded them with expert precision. Four helicopters — the soldier’s specialty as a member of the 101st — flew overhead in formation, prompting the crowd to look skyward.

A kneeling Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, presented one flag to Mark and Lynn Silk. The other flag was presented to Silk’s wife, Kayce Silk.

A lone bagpiper concluded the ceremony with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Gov. John Baldacci offered condolences to the family after the service, as did numerous other law enforcement and military personnel.

Silk died during his fourth tour of duty since his enlistment in 2003 shortly after he graduated from Orono High School. He had been to Korea, Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. He grew up in a military family. Mark Silk was a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, and his other sons, Brandon’s younger brothers, both are guardsmen with the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor.

On Wednesday, a motorcade of more than 20 vehicles accompanied Silk’s body from the Maine Army National Guard base in Bangor through his hometown of Orono and on to Old Town. Hundreds of people lined the streets to honor Silk as the motorcade passed.

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