Colleagues of a soldier captured by insurgents in Iraq more than a year ago saluted his casket Tuesday and carried it to a memorial service past a glass case containing the fallen serviceman's boots, helmet and goggles arranged in the shape of a field cross.
Inside Brightmoor Christian Church, Spc. Byron Fouty, a 19-year-old from the Detroit suburb of Waterford, was remembered as a loyal soldier and a loving son, brother and friend.
"When your nation called, you answered and said, 'Let's go. I'll go,'" said Gordon Dibler, Fouty's stepfather.
"You are a hero. You are my hero."
Captured in Iraq 14 months ago
Hundreds of loved ones, friends and other mourners arrived at the Novi church to pay their respects to Fouty, whose remains were found July 9. He was captured in Iraq 14 months ago.
He and another soldier, 25-year-old Sgt. Alex Jimenez of Lawrence, Mass., were seized when insurgents ambushed their unit south of Baghdad in May 2007.
Fouty's remains arrived Sunday in Michigan, and a funeral is set for Friday at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. Fouty's mother lives in Texas.
The seven 10th Mountain Division soldiers who carried the casket received special permission to perform the honors, normally handled by a national honors team. They also brought flags representing the five branches of the military.
After the service, Gordon Dibler said that he still doesn't have all the information regarding the circumstances of Fouty's capture and death, but that the Army has "done a great job," making the family believe it was paying careful attention to his case.
Also attending the service was Keith Maupin, whose son, Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin, was a 20-year-old private first class when his fuel convoy was attacked by insurgents in Iraq in April 2004. His remains were found in March northwest of Baghdad.
"I think he got a good reception — well-deserved," Keith Maupin said of Fouty's service. Dibler and Fouty's father, Mick, had attended his son's services in Ohio.
Keith Maupin, who dedicates his time to events and scholarships in honor of his son and other military members who died in service, said it's important for Fouty's family and friends to continue to support one another once the funeral crowds have dispersed.
"When we had Matt's services, we tried to give closure to those who had been with us for four years," said Maupin, wearing a button with a picture of his son that read, "My Name is Matt Maupin. Please remember my face."
"It gives them the opportunity to close that chapter. For me, mine will be closed when I die."