Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fallen soldier gets hero's welcome and farewell

PLANT CITY — As soldier David Andrew Croft Jr. prepared to return from Iraq, he told his mother he wanted as many people as possible at his homecoming.

"I want to see everyone," he said over the phone.

On Wednesday, thousands who didn't even know the 22-year-old showed up to pay their respects. Army Sgt. Croft died Jan. 5 in Baghdad after insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.

From MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to his native Plant City, kids and adults, friends, relatives and strangers, current troops and veterans paused as the motorcade carrying Croft's remains passed by.

"It is just overwhelming," Croft's sister, Andrea Pryor, said afterward. "It's heartfelt, it's amazing to see all these people. We can't thank them enough for coming out here and supporting our brother."

Following Croft's arrival from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Hillsborough County sheriff's motorcycle deputies led the procession through Tampa, where the mayor and police chief were among those in the crowd.

At least 500 kids at Nativity Catholic School stood along State Road 60 in Brandon. When the motorcade drove by, some of the kids saluted the fallen soldier; others placed their hands on their hearts.

Down the road in Valrico, motorcyclists with the Nam Knights gathered in a parking lot. "Just paying honor to a guy who laid down his life for us," said veteran Andy Huber, sitting on his Harley-Davidson. "I don't know him. He doesn't know me, but he did everything for me."

Cadets from the Sheriff's Office stood in formation off Turkey Creek Road and saluted Croft, who would have turned 23 two weeks ago. "We're all a family, regardless of whether we know him or not," cadet Savana Kelly said.

An emotional crowd lined the street outside Haught Funeral Home to await the soldier's remains. Many waved American flags and embraced as members of the Winter Haven chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars wheeled the flag-draped casket inside.

After the procession, Croft's sisters said they were grateful for the community's support.

Croft, a 2005 Durant High School graduate, leaves behind a fiancee. He was a cavalry scout stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. In his recent deployment, which would have ended this month, Croft was a gunner. He loved the role.

Although he was unsure of how long he would stay in the Army, Croft aspired to one day work in law enforcement.

Instead, the Army posthumously promoted him to sergeant.

His sister, Robin Croft, is an Air Force reservist. Their mother relished the chance to see her kids in uniform together.

All her son talked about, Vicki Croft told the Times a couple of days after his death, was coming home.

"He had a big homecoming," Robin Croft said. "And I know David is smiling down and saying, 'Wow, mom.' "

Times staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report. Kevin Smetana can be reached at ksmetana@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2439.

.Fast facts

Services set

Visitation for Sgt. David Andrew Croft Jr. will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Shiloh Baptist Church, 905 W Terrace Drive, Plant City. The funeral is at 1 p.m. Saturday at the same church.

Fallen soldier gets hero's welcome and farewell 01/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 1:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017

    Blogs

    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.