Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Hundreds gather to remember Army Ranger Matthew Sitton

LARGO — Leonard Leary had just limped beneath the overhang of the church's front entrance when the sound took hold of him. From a ceiling speaker came the sound of a bagpipe playing Amazing Grace. It stopped him. He leaned his head back and closed his 68-year-old blue eyes.

Leary, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, had driven 100 miles from Port Charlotte to Largo Saturday morning. He didn't know the young man for whom the song was played, but he knew what mattered: that his name was Matthew Sitton. That on Aug. 2 he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. That he was 26 when he died.

Hundreds of people — family and military members, friends and strangers — packed into First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks to attend Sitton's funeral. Sitton had grown up in that building and attended Indian Rocks Christian School, where he played football and baseball.

He met his wife, Sarah, at a Gainesville church camp in 2007, just weeks before his first deployment. For two years, they exchanged letters and packages. They fell in love and, on Independence Day in 2009, he proposed.

Nine months ago, the Sittons had their first child, Brodey.

The Army Ranger, a staff sergeant, was on his third tour when he died, just one month before his return home.

When the funeral ended, as reporters watched from across the street, fully uniformed military men with wide shoulders and square jaws carried Sitton's casket to an awaiting hearse.

One of them sobbed.

Sitton's family walked behind the hearse as it pulled away from the church and crept toward the nearby gravesite.

Army Brig. Gen. John Baker escorted Sarah. She wore a knee-length black dress. Her husband's dog tags hung from her neck.

Sarah's skin looked pale, and her eyes hollow. Her gaze stayed fixed on the road in front of her.

Back near the church's entrance, Leary held an American flag and stood still, saluting. As the procession disappeared from view, a distant bagpipe played once more.

Times files contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
V.M. Ybor: That’s not cigar smoke you’re smelling

V.M. Ybor: That’s not cigar smoke you’re smelling

TAMPA — Across Interstate 4 from Ybor City’s nightlife, another part of the historic neighborhood has an odor less nostalgic — and much less pleasant — than cigar smoke and roasting coffee beans.V.M. Ybor, named after the Spaniard who founded the cit...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the president’s call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention — the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House — CNN’s Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to the Republican’s affair with a woman in 2015. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced the indictment Thursday. She launched an ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Douglas school cop who ‘never went in’ after Parkland shooting has resigned

Douglas school cop who ‘never went in’ after Parkland shooting has resigned

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday the school resource officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was suspended without pay after he learned the deputy never went into the building when the shooting began.Scot Peterson chose to resign and ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Second stripper, same commissioner: Hernando County official’s home site of domestic dispute

Second stripper, same commissioner: Hernando County official’s home site of domestic dispute

SPRING HILL — Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson is in the midst of another personal controversy that is reminiscent of his relationship several years ago with a stripper who used drugs.A couple who rents a room in Nicholson’s home got into ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trump’s club

Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trump’s club

Two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the gala’s organizer said.Rizzuto and his wife, Den...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year.A new indictment has long been expected in special cou...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Haley Loeun, a top aide to the embattled leader of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards, was fired Thursday from her $130,000 position as business services director. Loeun came under criticism after the Tampa Bay Times reported that CareerSource...
Updated: 3 hours ago