FORT PIERCE, FL, USA
SPC, COMPANY B, 96TH AVIATION SUPPORT BN, 101ST AVN BDE, FORT CAMPBELL, KY
KANDAHAR ARMY AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN 06/05/2008
Several hundred people filled the East Florida Primitive Baptist Association Temple on Saturday for the funeral of Private First Class Andre D. McNair Jr., who was killed June 5 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
During the service, they learned he was given a posthumous promotion from private first class to specialist. He also was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Army’s fourth-highest combat award. It is awarded to soldiers who have borne the hardships of war.
Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, commanding general of the Special Operations Command Central at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, announced McNair’s posthumous promotion and award during the funeral, calling the 20-year-old soldier “a brave young man with the courage to answer the call to arms by his country at a time of war.”
Turning to McNair’s parents, Andre and Pamela McNair Sr. of Fort Pierce, Mulholland said, “Let me assure you, Andre enjoyed what soldiers treasure most: the respect and admiration of his comrades.”
Recalling how Abraham Lincoln told a mother who had lost all five of her sons in the Battle of Gettysburg that she had “lain such a precious treasure on the altar of liberty so that the country could endure,” Mulholland told the McNairs, “That’s what Andre and so many of his comrades have done.”
Mulholland held onto Pamela McNair’s arm as she walked into and out of the church and presented her the American flag that had draped her son’s casket during the graveside service.
In a spirited sermon punctuated with “amens” and “hallelujahs” from the crowd, the Reverend Thomas Franklin, pastor of Ward Chapel AME Church in Bessemer, Ala., called McNair by his family nickname, saying, “Jaybird loved flying, flying high up in the clouds. Well on the fateful day while he was flying, he got stopped by God, who reached over and said, ‘Come home.’ Now Jaybird’s not with us; he’s in that heavenly place in the sky.”
Franklin told the McNairs, “People can’t send enough flowers or bring over enough food to make the pain go away; but if you lean on Jesus, it’s going to be all right. When God gives us children, we have to be willing to give them back. If you look in the mirror, you can see Andre every day.”
Turning back to the hundreds in the church, Franklin told the congregation, “God can come and get you any time. God let Andre stay on this world for 20 years, and then he came and got him. ‘If you want to fly,’ God told him, ‘you can fly with me.'”
In a prayer during the graveside service at Hillcrest Memorial Park north of Fort Pierce, the Reverend John Quarterman, assistant pastor of the Triumph Church in Fort Pierce, called McNair “a fallen hero, a fine example to the young men and women who serve this country.”
Governor Charlie Crist has ordered flags at public buildings in St. Lucie County to fly at half-staff Monday in honor of Specialist Andre McNair Jr. and said the U.S. and Florida flags over the state Capitol in Tallahassee will do the same.