DELAWARE, OH, USA U.S. Army SPC, 545TH MP CO, 607TH MP BN, 8TH MP BRIGADE, FORT RICHARDSON, AK TIKRIT, IRAQ 09/08/2009
Pigtailed Rowen Myers tilted back her head and squinted up at the 545 yellow balloons that illuminated the bright blue sky outside the funeral service. The 14-month-old smiled, pointed toward the horizon above the distant tree line and gave her father, Army Specialist Zachary T. Myers, her own salute.
“I know her daddy is looking down at her and Megan (Myers’ wife) right now,” said one mourner outside the Vineyard Church of Columbus. “He’ll always be by their side, protecting them, just like he protected all of us.”
Several hundred family members, friends and supporters gathered yesterday in Westerville to honor the military service and celebrate the life of the 21-year-old Myers.
Myers, of Delaware, was killed Sept. 8 while riding in an armored vehicle hit by an explosive in Baji, Iraq. Also killed in the blast were Staff Sergeant Shannon M. Smith, 31, of Marion, and Private First Class Thomas F. Lyons, 20, of Fernley, Nev. The three soldiers served with the 545th Military Police Company, which deployed from Fort Richardson, Alaska, to Iraq in May. The 545 balloons were released to honor Myers’ company.
Myers enlisted in the Army in February 2008 after graduating from Rutherford B. Hayes High School. During the funeral service, Brigadier General Rodney Johnson promoted Myers from private first class to the rank of specialist. He then presented Megan Myers with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, military honors that were bestowed upon her husband. Zachary Myers’ grandfather was a career soldier, and his father served in Vietnam.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, we are defending our way of life,” Johnson said. “We are making sure that another 9/11 doesn’t happen. Zach and others are making sure our families are safe back here in the United States.”
The pictures flashing above the flag-draped coffin captured all aspects of the passion Myers had for life: Hikes in the mountains, long rides on his motorcycle, playful hugs with his wife and curling up in a chair with Rowen.
Tears dripped on the podium as Megan Myers read a poem for her husband. She then thanked the many people who have supported her and her daughter.
“Zach is gone and Rowen won’t have her dad anymore, but I have had so many people step forward,” she said.
In the lobby of the church, family and friends wrote messages to Rowen, hoping to one day help her understand the importance of her dad’s life.
I’m sure you are carrying on the love of your father today. So smile and know how much he loved you as he gave it all for the rest of us.
Your daddy died for all of our freedom. We pray that as you grow up that you will never forget the sacrifice he gave for you.
Your dad died a hero but you are his greatest accomplishment.