Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hundreds says goodbye as Army Spc. Justin Dean Coleman is laid to rest at Florida National Cemetery

BUSHNELL — As the doors of the hearse opened, revealing the flag-draped casket, a warm August wind caused the American flags at Florida National Cemetery to stand at attention.

A bagpiper heralded the arrival with Amazing Grace, and military pallbearers wheeled Army Spc. Justin Dean Coleman's casket along the crushed seashell sidewalk, the family trailing behind.

More than 200 mourners placed hands to hearts or stiff salutes to sweaty brows.

A prayer. Three volleys. Taps. And a folded flag for Spc. Coleman's young widow, his mother and his father.

Spc. Coleman, a 21-year-old from Hernando Beach, died in a firefight with insurgents July 24 in a remote, mountainous region of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

His 10th Mountain Division infantry unit, based in Fort Drum, N.Y., was conducting security checks in the area when it came under intense fire.

Spc. Coleman told his father, a week before his death, that his unit's mission involved searching for the missing Army soldier captured by the Taliban. The military would not confirm the story.

In a brief memorial service Monday morning at Downing Funeral Home in Spring Hill, a standing-room-only crowd remembered Spc. Coleman as a teacher, a hard worker, a rival, a best friend, a hero and a brother.

A friend read a letter written by Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Alex M. Murphy, who recalled how he and Coleman trained during their senior year in high school before leaving for boot camp.

"It was always an adventure with Justin," Murphy wrote from Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he is stationed. "Sometimes I wish I could have been there with Justin in Afghanistan."

Spc. Coleman enlisted in June 2007, shortly after graduating from Nature Coast Technical High School, largely against his family's wishes, and deployed to Afghanistan in January.

His service ended with a streaming procession to the cemetery midday Monday, led by 113 motorcycles, most of them with the Patriot Guard Riders.

The procession traveled slowly through the heart of Hernando County, along U.S. 19 and State Road 50, blocking intersections for more than six minutes at a time.

"My heart goes out to the family," said Marie Huxley of Spring Hill, one of dozens who stood along the route, waving American flags or holding homemade "Thank You" signs.

At the cemetery just off Interstate 75 in Sumter County, military officials said comforting words to Spc. Coleman's family as they handed them the triangulated flags.

His widow, Nicole, 22, began to sob softly.

The mourners did the same.

At the grave site, Nicole Coleman touched the new headstone, her husband's dog tags dangling from her right wrist. The inscription read, in all capital letters, "Gone but not forgotten."

Spc. Coleman's body was laid to rest five paces from Army Pfc. Cody Clark Grater of Spring Hill, who died in Iraq almost exactly a year earlier.

Pfc. Grater's father, Larry Decker, helped lead the procession to the cemetery.

The two didn't know each other, he said, but now they do.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Hundreds says goodbye as Army Spc. Justin Dean Coleman is laid to rest at Florida National Cemetery 08/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 7:42am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.