Fallen Plant City Marine remembered as fun-loving, focused

Katherine Clement, left, comforts her daughter Katie Freeman along with her father William Clement as she watches the casket of her husband, Marine Lance Cpl. Ronald D. Freeman, as it is carried to a hearse Thursday in Thonotosassa.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Katherine Clement, left, comforts her daughter Katie Freeman along with her father William Clement as she watches the casket of her husband, Marine Lance Cpl. Ronald D. Freeman, as it is carried to a hearse Thursday in Thonotosassa.

Katelyn Freeman, who turned a year old the day her daddy died, wore a pink bow in her hair to his funeral.

That same pink bow appeared in many of the pictures that filled a screen behind her father's flag-draped casket.

The pictures show how Lance Cpl. Ronald Douglas Freeman lived: family vacations, Christmas and horsing around at home. In nearly every photo, Freeman is smiling proudly.

His son, William Douglas, was born 10 days before Freeman died in Afghanistan. The two never got a chance to meet, and now those pictures are the only way he will know the fallen Marine's smile.

Freeman, who grew up near Plant City, was killed April 28 by a roadside bomb while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand Province. Family and friends memorialized him Thursday at his home church, East Thonotosassa Baptist Church, and buried him at Florida National Cemetery.

Known as "Doug" or "Dougie," he was recalled as a fun-loving yet focused man who accomplished so much during his 25 years.

"He was a Marine and family man," friend Katherine Rutherford said. "That's what he wanted. He would have let anybody know."

Freeman and his future wife, Katie, were visiting Tallahassee when they met at a graduation party. They married after a brief courtship and started a family soon after.

He decided to join the Marines in 2008, even when people told him he was a long shot. But Freeman worked out until he shed 100 pounds and the Marines accepted him as an enlistee.

Mandy Owens was one of those naysayers, though she admits she should have known better than to doubt her stubborn friend.

"He did what he wanted to do," Owens said. "When he had his mind set on something, Dougie did it."

Though Freeman was excited about his military service, he fretted about his wife and how she would manage during his deployment. Several weeks ago, he helped her move to the Plant City area so she could have family support nearby.

He was only in Afghanistan for about a month.

During that time, Freeman used a metal detector to find improvised explosive devices. He discovered nine in those short weeks, as well as a 40-pound homemade explosive, said Lt. David Duprey, a Marine chaplain.

But on the day he died, a mine exploded as Freeman stepped out of a truck to search the area.

Not long ago, Freeman sent his wife a card, Pastor James Brady said during the funeral. Freeman wrote that he loved her more than life itself. He told her not to worry about him while he was away and they would see each other again.

Freeman was a strong Christian man who is at peace in heaven, Brady told the crowd. The family should be comforted knowing that he will be reunited with his wife and daughter, and get the chance to meet his son one day.

"He doesn't have to come back. They'll go to him in God's time," Brady said.

During the funeral, three short videos of Freeman were shown.

The first was his boot camp graduation, the crowd cheering as the camera zoomed in on Freeman.

The second video was his baptism.

"You're bigger than I thought," the pastor joked as Freeman waded into the shallow pool. He came up from the water with that same, beaming smile.

In the third, he hammed it up for the camera while his wife filmed him. He told her he loved her and leaned in for a kiss.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

Fallen Plant City Marine remembered as fun-loving, focused 05/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 6, 2011 12:49am]

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