Soldier's plea: Reflect on the 'art of life'
BY JOE RODRIGUEZ
The Wichita Eagle
U.S. Army Cpl. Eric Palmer of Maize left a message for those who attended his funeral Monday.
Before he deployed for Iraq last year, he gave a letter to a close friend, with instructions to share it.
"... If I do go, explain to everyone how much I wanted to protect you guys, and I am willing to give my life so you and all the people I love can experience the art of life," Jeff Ely read from the letter during the service at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Andover. Palmer described the "art of life" as taking time out every day to reflect on its beauty, Ely said.
Palmer, known as "Eeker" to many close to him, died June 24 from injuries he sustained when his unit was attacked by insurgents in Bayji, Iraq. He was 21.
He was remembered at his funeral Monday for his bravery, his unselfishness, his love of his family and his trust in God.
"He was willing to live not for himself, but for others -- for his family, for his friends and even for his country," the Rev. Mike Baldwin said.
He described Palmer as adventurous: "He wanted to try everything, do everything."
And he said Palmer adored his brother, Travis, who is about 5 years older.
"Whatever Travis did," Baldwin said, "Eeker wanted to do."
Travis Palmer joined the U.S. Navy upon his high school graduation. Eric Palmer enlisted in the U.S. Army when he graduated from Maize High School in 2004.
"Eeker had that hunger and thirst -- he wanted to keep our country free, and he wanted to help those who were assisting others," Baldwin said.
When Palmer went to Iraq, Baldwin said, he was worried about his family being worried about him. So he would shield his family from the dangers he faced.
"He never wanted them to experience the things that he was seeing on a daily basis," Baldwin said.
Ely, Palmer's friend, shared some of the conversation that led to Palmer giving him the letter. Palmer told Ely that should he die, he wanted his funeral to be "more of a celebration than anything."
"So I think for him, we all (should) try to keep our heads up, stay strong and never forget," he said. "Always keep him in our hearts.
"We love you Eric."
Travis Palmer -- the brother whom Eric Palmer adored -- spoke briefly about his own pride.
"I'm so proud of my brother and thankful for the time that I got to spend with him," Travis Palmer said. "It gives me comfort to know that he acknowledged, and he accepted, God's plan for him."
After the funeral, the Patriot Guard led a procession from Andover to Maize, where Palmer was buried with military honors.